Weekly Feature

2015-12-09 / Local News

Legislators secure funding for multiple organizations in county budget

Hardwick Hardwick Legislators Kevin Hardwick and Edward Rath were able to secure additional funding for multiple community organizations in the 2016 Erie County budget while also achieving a decreased tax rate.

The River Road Fire District was one group to benefit from the funding. Hardwick said the district will receive $5,000 in the budget to support its efforts to protect the residents of the Town of Tonawanda.

“The River Road Fire District has a coverage area that far exceeds the demands of most fire companies. These volunteers are responsible for protecting much of Tonawanda’s industrial sector,” Hardwick said in a press release. “The county’s assistance will help ensure that the firefighters are better equipped to face any emergencies they may face.”

“The River Road Fire District would like to thank Erie County and Hardwick for helping us get this generous funding to purchase much needed fire equipment,” Fire Chief Jason Webb said in the release.

Rath Rath The legislature also approved Rath’s request for $50,000 for new turnout gear to support the local firefighters and increase their safety during training exercises.

Rath said some of the gear and equipment relied upon by county firefighter instructors is nearly a decade old, which is twice its average life cycle, and the additional funding will be critical for the safety of the instructors.

Recognizing the serious and growing heroin and opioid issue facing Erie County, the Sheriff’s Office requested two additional deputies for the Narcotics Unit in the 2016 budget, which was also approved.

“My Narcotics Unit has been working tirelessly to end the stream of illegal drugs from entering or being sold within Erie County and the additional personnel will allow the sheriff’s office to be more proactive in battling cocaine, heroin and other opioid drugs,” Sheriff

Timothy Howard said in a release from Rath.

“The addition of these two deputies comes at a time when we are seeing a historic number of deaths from overdoses. It’s a tragedy,” said Rath, who is chairman of the Public Safety Committee. He added that the focus of the Majority Caucus this budget process was on prioritization and legislators agreed that this was among the county’s top needs at this time.

Since the beginning of 2015 there have been nearly 150 deaths associated with heroin/opioid overdoses. In addition, numerous first responders and trained citizens have had to inject victims with Narcan, which is used to save victims who are on the brink of an overdose.

“This is an issue that the county needs to address as a whole. In addition to supporting this budget addition, the Legislature will also be hosting an informational meeting in my committee with various county departments and outside agencies to continue to work toward a solution,” Legislator Lynne Dixon, chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Committee, said in the release. “It is our hope that these additional deputies are another step towards addressing the heroin epidemic.”

In the community, Hardwick secured an additional $5,000 for the Newman Family Boys & Girls Club to support its effort to provide quality programming for the area’s youth, which will keep its members on the right path and teach them the right values and goals, Hardwick said.

“It’s certainly going to go help us expand and enhance existing programs and better enable us to serve the more than 4,000 kids we work with on a yearly basis,” the club’s chief professional officer, Robert O’Brocta, said in a separate release from Hardwick. “Our plan is to use the funding to keep the Newman Club open for Teen Nights on Fridays.”

Brighton Place Community Resource Center will also receive $5,000 to provide library resources and additional services to the community.

“We, at Brighton Place, greatly appreciate Erie County’s appropriation of $5,000 to our nearly decade old, not-for-profit library and resource center in the Brighton Road area of the Town of Tonawanda,” said Michael Rizzo, president of the Brighton Place board of directors, in another release from Hardwick. “Legislator Hardwick’s advocacy on our behalf will result in enhanced programs and services for our patrons.”

In education advancements, an additional $254,317 for Erie Community College in the 2016 budget brings the county’s total investment to $16.2 million for ECC next year.

Hardwick described ECC as the “People’s College of Erie County” and said it is at a crossroad. He said the additional funding will help ensure that the college achieves its twin goals of providing a quality education to those who might otherwise be unable to afford it and helping train the workforce of the future.

“We at ECC thank the Legislature for their continued leadership and support of our education-based mission,” ECC President Jack Quinn said in a release on the additional funding. He noted that the money will aid that mission and the college looks forward to finding more ways to work with the county to further support its students.

Hardwick and Rath urged County Executive Mark Poloncarz to support the budget’s additional funding priorities. All of the additional funding was added to the 2016 budget without increasing overall spending in the next fiscal year, according to the legislators. Also, the legislature lowered the property tax rate for the second consecutive year.

For more information, call Hardwick at 858-8672 or email him at kevin.hard wick@erie.gov. Contact Rath at 858-8676 or at edward.rath@erie.gov.

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