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County Can Get A Bit More Bang For Its Federal Stimulus Bucks

Chautauqua County officials have done, by and large, a good job developing a $12.3 million plan to spend federal stimulus money.

The plan — which is now being reviewed by legislative committees and should be adopted later this month by the County Legislature – includes dozens of items that will help residents throughout the county. For that, departments heads and County Executive PJ Wendel deserve some credit.

In our view, though, there are two items that should be removed and reprogrammed to something with more benefit to more Chautauqua County residents.

The first is $72,000 for an air service development study for the Chautauqua County Airport in Jamestown to help determine if commercial air service can ever return to Chautauqua County.

We can save the county $72,000 and answer that question quickly — no. Unless the Jamestown area grows itself back to 1950 and 1960 levels, there is a miniscule chance that commercial air service will ever be viable at the Jamestown airport. Multiple plans have been submitted to the federal government with differing locations, ticket price points and help from local foundations and businesses. Those plans have been turned away by the federal government. County officials should learn what their federal counterparts already know — commercial air service from the Jamestown airport simply makes no economic sense. And the longer there is no air service, the harder it will be to bring it back.

In our view the county should move on.

The second line item is $150,000 for a Chautauqua Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District study focusing on properties that inadvertently impact Chautauqua Lake. Such a study might well be needed, but in our view stimulus money isn’t the best fit. Such a study can be undertaken with bed tax money or with proceeds of a lake taxing district if one is ever created. There are greater needs for stimulus money, including perhaps additional money for Public Works vehicles.

Again, county officials have done a nice job with this plan and should be commended for that. In our view, however, county residents can get a little more bang for our federal stimulus bucks.

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