Planning Board Prioritizes Capital Project Requests; Dredging Ranked No. 1

Dredging near the Conewango Watershed Dam is being considered the highest capital project priority.

After reviewing more than 50 capital requests this year, the Chautauqua County Planning Board recently unveiled its recommended projects the county should fund for fiscal year 2018. Doug Bowen, planning board chairman, presented the report to the County Legislature during last week’s meeting.

The capital process dates back to last year when departments began to identify specific needs. Planning board members heard from department heads who presented their requests in May. They ranked projects based on a number of factors including need.

The 10-member board came to a consensus that the No.1 project was dredging the reservoir area to remove sediment build-up at the Conewango NRSC Dam Site 33. The dam is located in the town of Cherry Creek and dredging the area would ensure normal pool capacity and proper function of the reservoir drain.

With its ranking, the Planning Board noted they were troubled over the fact that long-term maintenance of the federally funded facility is thrown onto the county. Maintenance of the dam is required per the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The board recognized the necessity of property maintenance of critical facilities like the dam, which is why it’s the top priority to fund next year. Between engineering and construction, the project is estimated at $135,000.

A project to replace CARTS buses over three years was ranked second by the board followed by the replacement of the county’s existing microwave radio system. County highway and bridge upgrades ranked fourth while replacement of 22 time clocks ranked fifth. The shoulder widening of Dale Drive in Cassadaga came in ranked at No. 6.

In his presentation to the legislature, Bowen said the Planning Board strives to provide valuable advice and perspective in determining which capital projects are priorities. Bowen acknowledged that ranking projects objectively is no simple task.

“We are choosing projects across departmental lines that result in different types of benefits for different segments of the county’s population,” he said. “This is compounded by the fact that we’re faced with a variety of public demands for new and better services while feeling pressure to lower the tax burden.”

Airport projects seeking county funding were ranked separately since they receive substantial federal funding. The Planning Board ranked an airport obstruction removal study at the Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport as the highest priority. A pavement management study at the Jamestown Airport was ranked second.

Enterprise departments seeking user-fee funding for projects were ranked separately. Upgrades to the North Chautauqua Lake Sewer District’s wastewater treatment plant in Mayville was ranked the highest by the planning board. Upgrades are necessary to be in compliance with mandates by the DEC to remove phosphorus.