JAMESTOWN – Two municipal mayors in Chautauqua County are speaking out about their disappointment in the County Executive’s plan to spend funding under the American Rescue Plan Act.
Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist and Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas say they are frustrated that County Executive PJ Wendel’s plan to spend the $24.6 million allocated by the Federal Government doesn’t include projects in either of the County’s two largest population centers.
“While we believed that there were worthy projects where County and City investments could be combined for greater impact, ultimately the County took a different approach,” the Mayors explained in a joint statement Tuesday. “While we participated in multiple meetings with the County to find potential common areas for coordinated investment, and came away from those meetings hopeful, we were not invited to submit a formal proposal to request use of these funds.”
The Mayors go on to say that other municipalities have been invited to, and participated in, talks about how the money was spent. The two also feel the county should have done a better job of engaging with the public as well.
“We strongly believe that the public should have the opportunity to participate in the planning process regarding the proposed spending and utilization of these unprecedented funds and we have shown our commitment in our own public process,” they said. “As municipal leaders, we are stewards of our city’s resources, and we have the moral and ethical responsibility to seek and take into consideration the input and feedback of our residents, businesses, non-profits and local stakeholders with regard to how our plans should direct spending allocations to projects and programs that will provide the greatest impact and address the most critical needs of our communities.”
Both Jamestown and Dunkirk have held public input “tours” hosting events over the past two months to gauge feedback on their spending ideas. They are now calling on the county to do the same.
“We call on the County Executive and the County Legislature to follow our lead and implement a transparent public feedback process for the planned use of ARPA funds, as both Jamestown and Dunkirk have effectively demonstrated,” the Mayors continued. “This is a once in a lifetime moment to invest in our communities. For that reason, this is not the time to dodge accountability.”
On Wednesday night, Wendel is slated to present his 2022 Executive Budget, and during the Legislature meeting, officials are expected to talk about the 43 projects so far proposed that would utilize the funding.
Viewers can watch Wendel’s address LIVE on WNY News Now’s Facebook page starting at 6:30 p.m.