Rotary President Kevin Sixbey with PJ Wendel Chautauqua County Executive
 
Vince Horrigan introduced PJ Wendel our current County Executive who is again running to be elected. PJ’s background is in education and as an EMT in the Lakewood fire department and president of the fire company. He has been a Lakewood Trustee and was a County legislator for over 8 years. Vince noted that he has handled issues in a bipartisan way and handled the COVID 19 issues with alacrity even though he only had three months under his belt when the pandemic struck. He represented Western New York County executives in the Federal Operation Warp Speed.  He has also provided leadership with financial issues caused by the pandemic and with the Chautauqua Lake Memorandum of Understanding. He listens and gives people the opportunity to voice their ideas.
 
 
According to Mr. Wendel, what is happening in the County is amazing. 505 new businesses have been started in County during COVID. Many are owned by women. Sales tax revenue is trending ahead. Bed tax is the highest in history partly through an agreement with Air B&B providing taxes.
 
3 Pillars for his administration: 1. Strengthening economy, 2. Strengthening communities 3. Investing in the future.  
 
Using the federal AARPA funding the County Exec is exploring how to increase broadband in Chautauqua County. There is $2.5 million earmarked-but some of the infrastructure bill might also address some of the broadband investment.
 
Property tax revenues are going up because recently purchased homes have increased funding, not because of raised assessments. Mortgage tax receipts also going up.
 
Investing in future: Broadband, water, sewer. Building sewer from Ashville through Stow. The State CFA fund- from Stow to Prendergast Point. A further goal is providing water all around the lake. This is an ambitious goal.
 
Right now the limitation on businesses is the workforce: There are 2,100 jobs available right now. How do we get kids ready to work? Teaching success skills. Working with area high schools and JCC.
 
IDA keeps working to improve the business outlook. The Partnership for Economic Growth (CPEG) is a public/private partnership. They have received $1,000,000 from the Ralph Wilson Foundation. At the Federal level, the County received and spent $10.5 million and is getting more money because it spent what was received. 
 
Last year, during COVID it was forecast that the County would lose $8-10 million. Tough decisions were made; employees were furloughed. Instead of a deficit, $5.1 million went into the fund balance. This year, a safety officer just hired.
 
Using the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.  “Rescue fund” $24.5 million to the County. Dunkirk received $11 million. Jamestown $28.9 million.
5 pods of investment with the money. Public health, public safety and infrastructure, economic and workforce development, clean water, and internal investments such as purchasing a new crane and a long arm excavator. Another is investment in the jail—body scanner and a mail scanner—cutting down on drugs coming into jail.
 
Goal: same services with more efficiency. New and bright Chautauqua County. Rich Dixon and Mark Geise and their team at the IDA are very busy. The county is a bright spot in the state.
 
Mr. Wendel created a border county coalition to deal with common COVID issues in PA and NY. 
 
Kathy Hochul supports Chautauqua County and has spent time vacationing here.  
 
PJ Wendel will make decisions for the betterment of Chautauqua County, not for the betterment of the Republican Party or for himself.  Excited for what’s going to happen.
 
Q: Are you concerned about the control of local health care leaving the state? It’s a concern, but this is a rural county so there are limited options. The WCA merger with UPMC had to be done to save the hospital, but we need to work on healthcare in general.
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