Candidates Debate What Projects Are Priority
Editor’s Note: This is the second of a four-part series featuring the two 57th State Senate District special election candidates — George Borrello and Austin Morgan.
What projects in the 57th State Senate District should be considered a priority?
That is the question posed to the candidates, George Borrello, Republican, Conservative, Independence and Libertarian parties endorsed candidate and Chautauqua County executive, and Austin Morgan, Democratic and Working Families parties endorsed candidate and Cornell University graduate, running in the 57th State Senate District special election during a debate at The Post-Journal earlier this month. The question was, “What projects would you make a priority to receive state funding or support in each of the counties that make up the 57th Senate District.”
Morgan started by stating that even though Borrello is charming, he won’t be able to convince the Democratic majority to provide the necessary funding for projects in the district because he “won’t be at the table.”
“I’ve seen firsthand what a minority office gets and what a majority office gets,” Morgan said referring to his time working for a state senator from Queens. “I’m not saying that is how it should be. I’m saying that is the reality of the situation. By adding young people, we can start to change the system with new ideas and values that align with our community.”
The list of priority projects Morgan discussed started in Cattaraugus County. He said the highways in Salamanca have been neglected for far too long.
“I drive through them so often going around the district. They are atrocious for the Seneca Nation and New York state taxpayers,” he said.
In the town of Allegany, Morgan said the commercial complex where K-Mart went out of business needs new utility lines and infrastructure to attract new businesses.
In Little Valley, Morgan said he has worked with Citizens Advocating Memorial Preservation, which is a volunteer nonprofit organization, that works toward the preservation, restoration, reuse and rededication of the Civil War Memorial complex.
In Allegany County, Morgan said the Alfred Fire Department purchased a new fire truck after they were told state funding would pay for the new piece of firefighting equipment. However, Morgan said after former state Sen. Cathy Young resigned last February, the Alfred Fire Department didn’t receive funding for the fire truck in the 2019-20 state budget.
“They’re out thousands of dollars,” he said. “They’re a small town fire department with volunteers who give their time to their community and now they’re in debt for it. We need to make sure someone is (in Albany) to get grant money for our district.”
In Chautauqua County, Morgan said county officials usually receive a couple hundred thousand dollars for management in the state budget. However, because there was no state senate representative, the 2019-20 state budget included nothing for the lake.
Morgan also said the district needs someone with the right connections to attain the funding necessary to rehabilitate the NRG plant in Dunkirk.
Borrello started by discussing what he has done as county executive to improve broadband access. He talked about how he has worked with DFT Communications on a project called Fiber to Farm. Also, he discussed how the counties of Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua received a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to increase broadband access to 4,200 homes, 87 farms and 18 tourist attractions.
“I led the charge through Southern Tier West (Regional Planning & Development Board),” Borrello said. “This wouldn’t have happened without Chautauqua County stepping up and providing the majority of the local share. Again, (Morgan) can talk about what (he) wants to do. I can tell you what I’ve accomplished. (The broadband grant is) about reaching out to as many resources as possible to deliver the goods.”
Borrello said Chautauqua County losing state funding for Chautauqua Lake was a form of punishment from Albany for not having a state senator for most of 2019. He said, even without funding support from the state, that he led the way in finding a solution to improve the water quality by having the Chautauqua Lake consensus strategy and the memorandum of agreement among lake groups and municipalities.
“We brought people together and created the memorandum of understanding, which brought together 16 municipalities,” he said. “When (Morgan) talks about things won’t happen because I’m not one of the three men in a room, that’s just not true.”
Borrello said because of the deplorable conditions of Interstate 90 near Irving in Seneca Nation territory, he along with U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, shined a light on the problem to convince state officials to release the necessary state funding to improve the highway.
“We stepped forward together and got things accomplished,” Borrello said.
Other projects Borrello discussed was creating a welcoming, gateway center on the western boarder of New York in Ripley. He also talked about the expansion of U.S. Route 219 to connect with commerce from Canada. He added that he wants to promote new forest economy in Allegany County for the reuse of wood and wood by-products to create an energy source.
During rebuttal, Morgan again discussed the 57th State Senate District’s need to have an elected officials who is part of the Democratic majority. For example, he said not only did Chautauqua County lose its state senator, but its Assemblyman, Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, wasn’t able to get much accomplish during the last legislative session. He said Goodell was only able to get two bills passed, which were both about the renaming of bridges.
“Not being in the room is the downfall,” Morgan said. “In terms of getting projects funded, I’m the only candidate that can do it. That is the reality. The office (Borrello) gets will be so far from the Capitol he wont be able to see it.”
Borrello countered by saying being the representative for the 57th State Senate District isn’t about having a plush office and a close parking space.
“They can put me wherever the hell they want,” Borrello said. “I’m going to fight hard for this community and I have a proven track record.”
The 57th State Senate District covers Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua counties, and portions of Livingston County