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Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Thumbs up to once again meeting a campaign goal. On Tuesday, the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County announced it had exceeded its 2014 Campaign goal of $1,320,000. The campaign reaching its goal every year reaffirms the sense that many south county residents know the importance of the United Way and the more than 40 community agencies the United Way gives money to each year. Each year’s campaign is different and faces different challenges. Some blow past the campaign goal and others squeak past, but the story is the same each year – our community raises the money needed to fund programs the community feels are important. Thumbs up to campaign co-chairs Melissa and Shane Uber, Tory Irgang, United Way of Southern Chautauqua County executive director, and United Way staff, all of whom led a dedicated team of volunteers who did yeoman-like work to close a successful campaign. And, thumbs up to each and every person who donated to the 2014 United Way Campaign. No matter how big or small the donation, it will make a difference.

Thumbs down to an inability to separate the personal and professional, particularly in small towns and villages where hard decisions must be made. We note the following from a recent edition of our sister paper, the Dunkirk OBSERVER. Michele Lindquist, a Pine Valley Central School board member since 2006, has announced she won’t run again. She says it’s not because of the administration or her concern about not getting re-elected. Rather, she says it’s because of all the personal attacks she’s received. Pine Valley is in a tough spot. They may have to eliminate a number of full and part-time positions. If you’re upset, that’s fine. Picket. Protest. Speak at the board meetings. Offer solutions. Run for office. But don’t send anonymous texts or emails. The Pine Valley community is better than that.

Thumbs up to the possibility of hosting a National Hockey League preseason game at Jamestown Savings Bank Arena – if the community gets behind the effort, that is. The Jamestown Savings Bank Arena has placed its bid to host a 2015-16 National Hockey League preseason game later this year as part of an online contest. Winning the contest would mean a grand prize of $150,000 to be used toward arena upgrades in addition to the opportunity to display an exhibition matchup between two professional hockey teams. Those who want to help can visit www.krafthockeyville.com, locate the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena and nominate the arena by describing – in 2,500 characters or less – what makes Jamestown so passionate about hockey. Thumbs up, as well, to Brian Cersosimo, arena general manager, for spearheading the effort.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Thumbs up to lending a helping hand. Stateline Speedway is holding a donation event today from 9 a.m. to noon to benefit Rick and Trish Sperry of Kennedy. The Sperrys’ home was destroyed by fire last week, and according to Randy Beckstrom, a friend of Rick Sperry and fellow racer, the drop-off accepts “everything and anything” to help the Sperry family, including clothing, furniture, kitchen items and monetary donations. Beckstrom said donations can be dropped off at the admission ticket booth area, where volunteers will help load items onto trucks. Donations can also be made online at www.gofundme.com/kfsoqw.
Thumbs down to an unwelcome change to the upcoming tax return season. Those filing income tax returns this year will have to answer questions about health insurance and, for those receiving health insurance through the New York State of Health Marketplace, be sure to take their 1095A form to the tax preparer. Those who don’t have health insurance also will have to pay a fine this year of $95 per adult and $47.50 for each child under 18, or 1 percent of household income after a $10,000 threshold. There is also a possibility in which people need to pay money back if they received the Advance Premium Tax Credit to make insurance more affordable. Kathy Pickering, executive director of The Tax Institute at H & R Block, said the tax credit received was based on estimated income. So, if someone earns more income than estimated, they may have to pay back some of the tax credit out of their refund. What a hassle.
Thumbs up to a second house in Jamestown that has been renovated through the efforts of the Chautauqua County Land Bank. A once-blighted home at 1309 Newland Ave. in Jamestown is now ready for a new owner after a six-month renovation by Michael Digirolamo of JMD Remodeline. The house has a new kitchen, bathroom, porch, fireplace, refinished hardwood floors, exterior paint, aluminum trimming, plumbing, gas lines and several other improved features. The land bank and city Development Department officials have been tearing down as many unfixable houses as time and money will allow, but those demolished houses leave a hole in the city’s tax base and in city neighborhoods. The land bank program saves houses by purchasing the home at 60 percent of its assessed value so the purchaser can save money on the sale and put that money into renovation costs. The land bank could close on the sale of four more decaying houses in Jamestown to be renovated in the first half of 2016. This is one example of a proactive program that is working to keep Jamestown’s neighborhoods from sliding into further disrepair. It is encouraging to see its positive impact.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Thumbs up to the diligent work thus far by those involved with extending sewer lines around Chautauqua Lake. If anyone doubts the need for such work, look no further than Lakewood. The use of Chautauqua Lake as a swimming spot has dropped off so much at Richard O. Hartley Park in Lakewood that Lakewood Village Board members and Mayor David Wordelmann are suggesting closing Lakewood Beach because staffing the beach with lifeguards is a waste of $12,000. Craig Seger, a village resident, told board members he is at the beach regularly and confirmed there is very little use of the lake for swimming. Blue-green algae blooms closed the beach 25 days last summer. If Lakewood is any indication, those working to restore proper health to Chautauqua Lake had better hurry.

Thumbs down to another senseless arson in Jamestown. City firefighters battled a fire early Sunday morning at 76 Fairmount Ave. in a house owned by the Chautauqua County Land Bank and scheduled for demolition. The home was slated to be demolished the next day, but the fire could been costly for the city and dangerous for firefighters. Vince DeJoy, city development director, said the cost of cleaning up the fire scene could have cost as much as $40,000 – three times the typical amount – had asbestos abatement not already taken place on the property. “So this is very serious. Nobody is doing us any favors burning these houses down,” DeJoy said. We’re not sure when our society decided setting houses on fire and putting firefighters’ lives and other people’s property at risk was acceptable. Those responsible must be caught and punished. Such behavior is unacceptable.

Thumbs up to Jamestown Community College’s Weeks Gallery for securing a nearly two-month exhibition of artwork by Andy Warhol and artists Warhol influenced. A public reception for the “Warhol Effect” exhibition will be held from 6-8 p.m. on Feb. 6 in JCC’s Weeks Gallery. A Louise Nevelson print, given to the Weeks Gallery by Diana MacKown in memory of JCC English professor Robert Hagstrom, will be unveiled during a special ceremony at 5:30 p.m. “Warhol Effect,” curated by Weeks Gallery director Patricia Briggs, is anchored by the gallery’s collection of Warhol works. The works include 103 Polaroid prints and 51 silver gelatin prints given by the Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program, a screenprinted Marilyn donated by local resident Lois Strickler, and five screenprints recently granted by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. The new additions include Saint Apollonia, Truck, Queen Ntombi and two prints – Annie Oakley and Sitting Bull – from Warhol’s Cowboys and Indians series. Art lovers should be sure to visit the Weeks Gallery, located on the second floor of the Arts and Sciences Center at JCC, to see the works while they are on display. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Thumbs up to making progress restoring a wall on the Findley Lake Dam. Thumbs up, as well, for a collaborative effort involving town officials and the county Industrial Development Agency that resulted in a state grant to help pay for the work. The Mina Town Board is reviewing proposals from six consultant groups to lead the project, which will involve working with several departments including the state Department of Transportation. The project is of vital importance for businesses in the Findley Lake area because much of the area’s economy relies on tourism generated by the lake. Permitting, engineering and bidding still have to happen but work could begin in the fall when crews lower lake levels to control winter ice and keep docks from tearing apart. We’re glad to see positive momentum on this project.

Thumbs down to the thoroughly preventable fire that destroyed a Lakewood business in early December. Kurt Hallberg, Lakewood fire chief, said recently the cause of the fire at El Azteca was overloaded power strips in the basement of the business that caught fire. Specifically, Hallberg said, it was a lot of power strips plugged into a lot of other power strips, all plugged into one outlet. It is unfortunate a failure to follow basic common sense cost the business’ owner a money-making enterprise, and downright regrettable that the fire risked firefighters’ lives twice in the course of a few hours.

Thumbs up to the growth of activities at the James Prendergast Library. Library officials initiated several new clubs and activities – including family game nights, teen movie nights, story times, Lego Club and Puzzle Pals – in 2014 for families and library members. After a slow start, the number of people participating has grown exponentially. Literacy is an important skill for today’s youth, and the library’s treasure trove of books does no one any good if children don’t go into the building in the first place. Kudos to Tina Scott, library director, and her staff for coming up with new ways to get families excited about visiting their local library.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Thumbs up to what should be a fun night at 7 p.m. Jan. 17 in Forestville when members of the 1984 Panama and Forestville varsity basketball teams will play a “rematch” of the 1984 Section 6 Class D championship game. It speaks to all that is good about high school sports and the lessons about teamwork that sports espouses that nearly full rosters of players have committed to take part in the game. We’d love to see more such events take place in our area.

Thumbs down to the state’s inability to fulfill its promises. Capital New York reported that, as of Christmas Eve, it didn’t appear the state would be ready to have bills distributed electronically even though voters approved a constitutional amendment in November calling for the system to be implemented. Electronic distribution of bills is projected to save $13 million each year. It seems the state Assembly and Senate haven’t decided which electronic platform to purchase to make the bills available and how to retrofit all 213 desks in the state Legislature. One would have thought such semantics would have been worked out before the amendment was even put on the November ballot. Of course, planning ahead has never been a strong suit in New York.

Thumbs up to more proposed sharing between rural school districts. Recently, the Sherman Central School board discussed sharing occupational therapy services with the Panama and Clymer school districts. Laura Wiggers, OTR, provides interventions to students in Sherman and Panama. According to Kaine Kelly, Sherman superintendent, the Clymer Central School district also needs an occupational therapist. The appointment of an occupational therapy assistant by Sherman Central School would allow all three districts to benefit from the support given to students by occupational therapy, which helps the students participate in everyday activities both at home, in school, and in the community. Sharing between Panama and Clymer of a superintendent and two other positions has gone well over the past couple of years and it is good to see continued discussions among the districts to share positions where possible. It is these little steps that blur the lines between districts and may lead, a long time down the road, to the streamlined educational structure Chautauqua County and the rest of New York state need.

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