LOCAL NEWS UPDATE 11:20AM 3/13/13
There is no final agreement on a contract for police services between the village of Lakewood and the town of Busti. However... there has been some miscommunication on what's been agreed to. Village Mayor David Wordelmann has issued a statement clarifying where the village stands on a new, five-year agreement. It was issued in the wake of a news report that Busti Town lawmakers approved what may have been judged to be a final contract. However... Wordlemann says it was only a proposal on what percentage of the total cost the village... and, town would pay for. Currently... the village pays about 73-percent of the yearly costs to run the Lakewood-Busti Police Department... while the town pays about 27-percent. Wordlemann says he spoke to the town board for about an hour at it's last meeting about the matter... and, made it clear that the village is only asking three things. And... Wordlemann says they also want assurances that the town doesn't leave the village "high and dry" on the costs. Wordlemann says they also don't want to be left "stranded" in the middle of the village's budget year. Most town and village officials agree the percentage of calls for the town in recent years has been more like 37-percent. A revised offer from the village is being delivered today.
Twelve of Chautauqua County's 15 villages will hold their elections a week from yesterday... and, most have contested races for several seats. Two of them will feature contested mayor's seats. County GOP Election's Commissioner Brian Abram says the big one is in Westfield... where incumbant David Carr is being challenged by Michael Vandevelde. Abram also says there are two Republicans and two Democrats running for a pair of trustee seats.
Abram says there'll also be a contested mayor's race in Forestville... where Katherine Bowker and Lina Aures are running against each other... and, four people are running for two board seats. In the immediate Jamestown-area... there's a contested trustees race in the village of Lakewood. Three people are running for two seats. Abram adds they have the same scenario in Sherman... Brocton and Cherry Creek. In Silver Creek... four people are running for two board seats. The races in Bemus Point and Falconer are uncontested. Voting next Tuesday takes place from 12 Noon to 9 PM. Results will be available immediately at Votechautauqua-dot-COM after the polls close.
The county's Board of Elections is using two village elections to test new Electronic Poll Book's that are being reviewed as a paper-less replacement to the current books people sign. That from Election's Commissioner Brian Abram... who says they've already used the new poll book in one village election. Abram says one was assigned to the Fredonia election Monday night. Abram says the pilot program with A-E in Fredonia went "very well." He says there are two advantages to using the new "paper-less" poll books. He says it saves on paper... but, the voter history is put in by a "hand-wand" so there's a record that they actually voted. Abram says they had the state's "blessing" to hold the test trials with the Electronic Poll Book's in two votes... but, there's no word on how soon the book's may be used on a regular basis.
Possibly the most anticipated restaurant opening in many years in the Jamestown-area is now just a week-and-a-half away. The Olive Garden... which is located next to the Chautauqua Mall in Lakewood... has set a March 25th opening date. Mayor David Wordelmann says people driving along Fairmount Avenue have had a great view of the progress. Construction work finished a short time ago... and, Wordelmann says he got a "sneak peak" inside a couple of weeks ago with Building Inspector Charles Smith. Wordlemann says there's been a lot of "buzz" about the restaurant since the first announcement was made about Olive Garden coming to the area... and, during construction of the eatery. Lack of any major snowstorms helped keep the project on track. Olive Garden officials said once they broke ground at the new location... it would take between 180 to 190 days for the restaurant to open. Employee hiring and training has been taking place in recent days... leading up to the March 25th opening.
Some changes are coming for two area State Parks. The Post-Journal reports that Kate Gross, Midway and Long Point state parks manager was the guest speaker at the Bemus Point Historical Society Museum Tuesday. Gross, who has been parks manager for Midway and Long Point for nearly two years, said renovations and rehabilitation projects are under way. At Midway, she said a rehabilitation project has started for the 1946 carousel. For the past four years, the carousel has been located outside, but a refurbished carousel will be back under the roundhouse this season. "It will be an adventure in May when people step on to the carousel," Gross said. Work has been done on the train as well, with the engine being refurbished. The park manager said she is also working on adding pavilions to the park because three have been damaged in recent years. The park will open for the season Memorial Day weekend. At Long Point State Park, Gross said future plans included possibly building an additional pavilion to go with the one already constructed and two gazebos. She said a goal for this year is to add a welcome sign for an entrance to the park and a bench.
New York state's use of competitive grants for certain education initiatives benefited only a relative handful of students during the initiative's first year. That's the conclusion of a new report that says Governor Andrew Cuomo's plans to expand the practice might be premature. The Citizens Budget Commission found only about 10-percent of the state's nearly 700 school districts applied for 25-million dollars Cuomo made available for performance improvement grants for the current school year. Even fewer districts went after 25-million dollars in management efficiency grants and fewer still received money. About 17-million dollars was awarded. The Cuomo administration expects more competition for the expanded grant opportunities contained in next year's budget, now that most districts have adopted a teacher evaluation system. That was a requirement that eliminated many districts from the first round of awards.
The state is withholding pension payments for cultural institutions and day care centers that have New York city contracts. The institutions include the American Museum of Natural History and the Brooklyn Museum. Budget Director Mark Page says the city has not paid into the Cultural Institutions Retirement System this fiscal year. The decision is based on a review that suggests the number of workers covered by the arrangement was overstated. The non-profits had no immediate comment.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation says all outdoor residential brush burning is prohibited during the high-risk wildfire season March 16 through May 14. In 2009, New York toughened restrictions on open burning to reduce harmful air pollutants and help prevent wildfires. The regulation allows residential brush burning for most of the year in towns with less than 20,000 residents. But it prohibits open burning in all communities during early spring when the bulk of New York's wildfires typically occur. The new regulation prohibits the burning of garbage at all times and places.
Governor Tom Corbett's budget chief says any meaningful changes to Pennsylvania's public pension plans must include at least some reductions in future benefits for current workers. Budget Secretary Charles Zogby made the comment Tuesday during a briefing on Corbett's wide-ranging pension reform plan. It would cut future benefits for current state and school employees, divert new hires into a 401(k)-style plan and slow the increase in taxpayers' contributions to the state's two major public retirement funds. Zogby says savings from future benefits are crucial to the long-range success of the governor's proposals to rein in an unfunded liability that now stands at 41-billion dollars. Critics say those proposals are on shaky legal ground and unlikely to withstand a court challenge.