Maybe it was the nice weather that kept people away from a town hall meeting in Dunkirk's City Hall Thursday night. Alone in joining Assemblyman Andy Goodell and Mayor Anthony J. Dolce in a wide-ranging discussion of issues affecting the city, county and state was city resident Richard Halas.
"What issues are you most concerned about that I can help you with?" Goodell asked Dolce after the pair exchanged pleasantries. "By the way, I appreciate your quick response from when we talked on NRG ... a critical issue for both of us. Hopefully, NYPA will come through. ... Even though the NRG plant is probably one of the cleanest coal plants in the nation, having invested over $200 million in pollution-control equipment, it's hard for them to get over that initial concern. Which is why Sen. Young has been dealing directly with the governor's staff. I think you and I need to do the same and I'll get you some contacts. In the meantime, I've also been approaching the governor from a different direction and different staff."
He explained Young is working through energy staffers while he is working with economic development staffers and thanked Dolce for his efforts.
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder
New York State Assemblyman Andrew Goodell listens as Dunkirk Mayor Anthony J. Dolce explains some of the city’s infrastructure needs.
"We've been in contact pretty regularly about this issue," Dolce stated. "I mean there's both sides of the aisle that are well aware of what's going on and no doubt the public's phone calls reached Assemblyman Silver and Gov. Cuomo's office."
Goodell said both offices need to know what NRG means to the community.
"Part of my hopes hinge on the fact that they put in over the $200 million in the improvements and they'll be able to meet the new EPA standards when they come out whereas many plants in Pennsylvania and Ohio won't meet those standards," Dolce noted. "So really, we just need to get them to that point and they should be more than self sufficient."
Goodell said work is also being done on Cuomo's transmission line upgrade proposal.
"Ironically, in the Assembly, the Republican caucus actually forced the vote on moving that issue forward, and it was turned down by the majority on procedural grounds. The majority wanted to run it through a committee," he explained. "Ultimately, I don't care if it runs through a committee, I will welcome that, but I don't want it to die.
"It was an interesting interplay because here you have the Republican caucus supporting the Democratic governor's initiative. We see it as very, very important to help out the situation statewide."
He noted if the Indian Point nuclear power plant is closed the New York City area will need power from some place.
"There's a very interesting play amongst the environmentalists, where the anti-nuclear people are saying we want to shut down the nuclear plant and New York City is saying fine, we want to keep our lights on, and the anti-coal people are saying we're not sure we want coal," Goodell continued. "We want alternative green energy, which is fine until you get a midnight clear where there's no wind and no solar. So we're kind of walking through a wrestling match."
Goodell then asked Dolce what issues he could help the city with.
"We have a great deal of infrastructure needs, you know your basic roads, sidewalks, equipment. A lot of our stock for the DPW and whatnot is aging beyond repair, on its last legs, all that good stuff," Dolce replied. "But what's even more important than that is any help with economic development is always key. We know the big (Consolidated Funding Application) announcement came out today."
Dolce said the city will prioritize what it hopes to apply for.
"We're shortstaffed in the Development Department but we're going to pick out a significant amount of projects that we feel we can handle and turn in solid applications for it," he stated.
July 22 is the deadline for applications.
Goodell noted Western New York scored the best in the last CFA round, but Halas wasn't impressed, saying the only thing the area received was proposed housing in the town of Dunkirk.
"I think we need a lot more. We don't really need that in, we have enough," Halas said of the housing proposal.
Goodell noted low-income housing can lead to more welfare recipients, but added progress is being made on welfare reform. He went on to detail the battle with different departments to enact changes, how Republicans get legislation through the Democrat-controlled Assembly, and the effect of mandates. School attendance problems, disruptive students and their affect on teacher rankings were discussed. Goodell said ideas are being studied on ways to make improvements in both areas.
Halas said there needs to be a way to make sure children show up to school.
Goodell said avenues were being explored to improve attendance, up to and including holding back welfare payments where possible and using the Persons in Need of Supervision procedure if necessary. Computer systems and government inertia are potential drawbacks. Goodell noted the state spends more than any other on education.
"It's not just a question of resources, it's how we effectively spend the resources," he stated.
Halas wanted to know why Chautauqua County lags behind in development, citing development projects in Hamburg totaling millions.
"We give out $20,000 the other day and you have five politicians standing there with a check for $20,000," he stated. " ... The point is, what the heck are we doing? What are we doing wrong here?" Halas asked.
Goodell suggested an economic forum.
Dolce said SUNY Fredonia Incubator Director Robert Fritzinger would be a good person to invite. Goodell added major employers should be invited as well.
"They can cut to the chase," Goodell said.
Goodell has scheduled another town hall meeting May 10 at 7 p.m. in the Mina-Findley Lake Community Center, 2883 North Road, Findley Lake.
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