EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the 11th in a series of articles highlighting major issues facing each of the 19 Chautauqua County districts and the legislators who will preside over them.
In his first elected position, Terry Niebel has an expansive district to represent in the Chautauqua County Legislature.
One of the biggest issues in District 5 is the SAFE Act, he said.
Signed into law on Jan. 15 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the act imposes a variety of restrictions on gun owners, including a reduction of magazine capacity and registration of newly defined assault weapons.
Its effectiveness has been highly debated among law enforcement agencies and gun owners since it was enacted.
"I think it sort of harasses law abiding gun owners, hunters and sportsmen," Niebel said. "It puts an impossible burden on law enforcement agencies and I think it needs to repealed."
District 5: Towns of Sheridan, Arkwright, Villenova, Cherry Creek and part of Pomfret
n Employment: Niebel Realty, broker/ owner; former Chautauqua County election commissioner 1981-2008
n Education: Master's in business administration, St. Bonaventure University; bachelor's degree, SUNY Fredonia
n Fun Fact: Boston Red Sox baseball fan
Although the SAFE Act can only be repealed through state legislature, Niebel said he plans on working with individuals on a county level in order to provide support to make it happen.
Niebel's district extends north in Sheridan to the shores of Lake Erie, and a hot topic in the northern portion of the county has been the establishment of a regional water district. A $1 million state grant was recently awarded for further implementation of the project.
"It's a must for the north county to develop a regional water supply system," Niebel said. "We have to have a safe and adequate water supply up here. It's a big area, but I believe the grant should help us. Hopefully it will become a reality."
Next to these two issues, Niebel said the Chautauqua County Home will be an important issue for the legislature to handle in the coming year.
He said many people in his district work there or have friends and relatives at the facility.
"It's a complex issue," he said, naming the nursing home a valuable asset to Chautauqua County with a duty to provide care to needy senior citizens.
"These are people who have lived, worked and paid taxes here in our local communities, a significant number of whom are veterans, who wish to spend their remaining time close to their families and friends," Niebel said.
Furthermore, he has been researching the financial past of the facility and said he had spoken with a number of the County Home's employees, staff members and relatives of residents.
"I plan on gathering as much information on the subject as I possibly can between now and the next vote," Niebel said. "Based on the information I have at this time, I believe the County Home can be saved and remain a county operation."
As for other county issues, Niebel said taxes need to be reduced.
"We've been taking some hits economically, but we've got a skilled work force and we need to get a handle on our tax situation," he said. "If we can do that, economic development will follow."
Niebel will join 12 other Republican legislators on Wednesday to form a new, downsized group of 19 with a Republican supermajority.
"From a political point of view, it's nice," he said of the supermajority. "It also carries with it a lot of responsibility."
Niebel added that bipartisanship is extremely important.
"There are a lot of challenges facing Chautauqua County, but nothing that can't be overcome with everybody working together," he concluded.