MAYVILLE - A resolution to provide $200,000 to the immediate and long-term maintenance of Chautauqua Lake waterways was picked apart by legislators Wednesday during a Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting.
The two-hour meeting, which at times became heated, centered on the resolution backed solely by Minority Leader Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown.
Cornell and a half-dozen lake representatives - including Chautauqua Lake Association President Chris Yates - spoke to the committee in favor of the appropriation payment, which would have come from recent reconciliations in the 2011 county budget - which netted over $10 million in surplus funding.
The Jamestown Democrat noted massive weed growth on Chautauqua Lake, and said the surplus should be used to support county taxpayers.
"I've been saying all along since several months ago that it's critical that every penny of that $10 million be returned to the taxpayers," Cornell said. "My argument would simply be, what better way to return every penny of that $10 million to the taxpayers than through ... Chautauqua Lake?"
As stated in the resolution, $100,000 would have been used by the CLA for additional weed harvesting and cleanup efforts. The remaining appropriation would have been used for "long-term" care of the lake, including stream and ditch stabilization projects.
Several committee members, however, were critical of appropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars in lieu of a multi-million dollar budget shortfall next year.
George Borrello, R-Irving, who lives on Lake Erie, said weed and shoreline problems are a concern countywide, not just on Chautauqua Lake.
Borrello also questioned whether or not $100,000 for watershed management was emergent at this time, and said spending the surplus would be a bad business move for the county.
"This is not a Chautauqua Lake issue," he said, showing photos of Cattaraugus Creek. "This is a countywide issue for watershed management. What this (resolution) addresses tonight is not only inappropriate, it's not emergent."
Committee members Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk, and Chairman Fred Croscut, R-Sherman also voiced corned regarding the appropriations.
County Executive Greg Edwards also chimed in, noting that he and the county have been committed to weed harvesting and cleanup efforts on the lake. The county executive disputed Yates, who said funding by the county has been slashed over the years.
"... I take great offense to what the president of the CLA has been presenting on a number of levels," Edwards said. "No. 1, the county has been strong and committed on weed harvesting. The numbers are irrefutable (on) our commitment on weed harvesting."
Edwards said the state has "evaporated" funding for the lake, and noted it was because of local state leaders and efforts of the county Department of Social Services that $50,000 in state funding was recently returned.
According to figures presented Wednesday, the CLA has received at least $60,000 in funding for weed harvesting operations in the last five years. In 2008, the CLA received $80,000; the association received $79,000 last year.
Cornell's original $200,000 resolution was eventually amended - cutting $100,000 for long-term maintenance, and scaling back the other half down to $30,000. The remaining money, also unanimously amended by the committee, would come from the county's 2 percent Occupancy Tax Lakes and Waterways Emergency Fund.
The CLA earlier this year received $10,000 from the emergency fund; the $30,000 would deplete that account, according to Jeff Diers, county watershed coordinator.
Diers was present Wednesday to discuss a submerged aquatic vegetation management plan for Chautauqua Lake, which is currently being completed and should be ready by April 2013. The vegetation plan, which would explore all in-lake issues and options, was not brought up during discussions of Cornell's resolution.
For the CLA to receive the $30,000 county payment, the lake association would need to provide a matching source. According to Yates, the CLA has $500,000 in reserves, however, he said those funds are to "protect the asset" of the lake.
Before the meeting adjourned, Borrell noted several "long faces" in the public regarding the scaled-back resolution and said he was upset how the committee transpired.
"I'm upset that I am upset," Borrello said, before eventually calling the resolution "irresponsible."
Cornell, who stormed out of the meeting, said she would consider pushing a separate resolution during next week's legislature meeting that would seek some or all of her previous lake recommendations.
"I'm not going to walk away from the committee and drop the commitment to the lake," she said.
The amended resolution will be discussed Thursday during an Audit and Control Committee meeting.