DUNKIRK - Chautauqua County will soon receive grant money for a new boat.
Defeated last month, the grant-acceptance resolution returned to the legislature Wednesday with additional information from the Sheriff's Office.
During the June vote, several legislators explained that they were only voting against accepting the money because they had unanswered questions. In order to answer all such questions, representatives from the Sheriff's Office attended committee meetings in recent weeks as well as Wednesday's full legislature meeting.
Above left, County Legislator Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk, had been most vocal in opposing grant money for a new boat last month.
P-J photos by Nicholas L. Dean
Following several minutes of questions and an even longer period of comment, the legislature voted 15 to 9 to accept the Homeland Security money.
The vote result was incorrectly reported in Thursday's edition of both The Post-Journal and the OBSERVER.
Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk, was most vocal about not accepting the grant money in June. His opposition, he explained, is because he believes the boat will become a cost when the grant money runs out. Several other legislators, from both sides of the aisle, echoed his concerns Wednesday.
"Let's not fool ourselves here," said Majority Leader John Runkle, R-Stockton. "There's no free dogs and there's no free boats. Anyone who has ever owned a boat or a dog knows this. We're in county government and we can ill afford to expand operations just because we received something for free."
"We have to start looking past the immediate gratification of receiving these things and consider the long-term ramifications of accepting these free items," Runkle continued. "Down the road there will be costs associated with this boat and we all know that. Finally, if this new boat was merely a replacement, then I would be voting for it. It is not. It's an additional boat on Lake Erie. It's an expansion, plain and simple. Therefore, I will not be voting for this."
Larry Barmore, R-Gerry, used his comments to say that Chautauqua County could set an example by turning down the grant money.
"Someplace, somewhere, somebody has to stand up in this state and say, 'We just can't take this free money anymore,' because it's not free," Barmore said. "It's coming out of our pockets as taxpayers. Perhaps if we stand up this month and say, 'As much as we would like to have this boat and as much as it would be a good thing for the people of Chautauqua County, we've just reached a point where we can't afford these things anymore.' Maybe next month another county will stand up and say, 'Look what Chautauqua County did last month. Let's join them.' Maybe we can start a movement from the feds and from the state and get our budgets under control."
Similarly concerned with the cost the county could incur once the grant runs out was Shaun Heenan, D-Dunkirk.
"I'd really be comfortable if, once the grants are over with, we just return the boat or transfer it to somebody else and get rid of it," Heenan said.
Representatives from the Sheriff's Office said that would be an option.
The vote to accept the boat grant passed 15 to 9, with Ahlstrom, Barmore and Runkle joined by George Borrello, R-Irving; Maria Kindberg, D-Jamestown; Ron Lemon, R-Frewsburg; Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia; Bob Stewart, R-Ellington and Scot Stutzman, I-Jamestown, in their opposition. Minority Leader Rudy Mueller, D-Lakewood, was absent from the meeting.