MAYVILLE - One by one, residents and business owners along Chautauqua Lake spoke over the dire weed situation this season and the need for additional county taxpayer support.
The majority of county lawmakers agree.
During their monthly voting session Wednesday, the legislature agreed to a heavily amended resolution that will appropriate $80,000 to the Chautauqua Lake Association for the specific use of weed harvesting. The lake association, however, must match $20,000 to receive the funding.
Legislature Approves Lake Funding
The three-and-a-half-hour meeting - which at times, according to several legislators, resembled yearly budget discussions - capped off a feverish attempt by Minority Leader Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown, to provide the CLA with additional weed harvesting funds.
Cornell, meanwhile, stressed that the resolution, which was solely sponsored by the Jamestown Democrat, was never about her.
"I think I've said it five times tonight, this legislation should not be and was never in my mind about me," she said. "This is about the lake and making a critical investment."
A few county lawmakers scoffed at Cornell's comment, noting that several residents personally thanked her for the resolution and her efforts.
Before voting, the legislature recessed after Cornell expressed hope to gain "bipartisan support" by speaking with both caucuses outside the legislature. Chairman Jay Gould, R-Ashville, allowed the break, but said Democrat and Republican majorities could not meet together in private.
During the five-minute break, lawmakers could be heard asking one another if they supported additional funding for the lake, and how much from the county's fund balance they would be willing to use. Other legislators, including Cornell, left the floor altogether.
If the CLA provides a matching share, the county will appropriate $50,000 out of its undesignated fund balance with the remaining $30,000 coming from the county's 2 percent occupancy tax, a portion of which is earmarked for lake use.
The resolution, which barely resembled its original state, was approved in a 15 to 10 vote. Cornell originally called for $200,000 for the immediate and long-term use in the lake.
George Borrello, R-Irving, who criticized the resolution last week during a Planning and Economic Development Committee, again expressed hesitation over additional funding to the lake association.
Borrello said there are "several emergent needs" within the county, and noted that the legislature earlier this year gave the CLA $10,000 in emergency funding.
"We had a trust," he said. "We trusted when we gave the CLA this money that we didn't need any oversight; that we trusted them that they would be good stewards of the lake and good stewards of the taxpayer's money.
"That trust went away the other night at the (Planning and Economic Development Committee) meeting as things degraded."
Tom DeJoe, D-Brocton, said spending portions of a recent $10 million budget surplus would create a slippery slope for future spending, and referenced the resolution as a "feeding frenzy" for the second time in as many weeks.
"When we're down to zero, we're in deep trouble," DeJoe said. "because that's where we're going to be."
County Executive Greg Edwards, too, last week expressed "significant frustration" over Cornell's proposal to use $200,000 from the county's fund balance.
Edwards could not be reached for comment regarding Wednesday's vote.
When asked after the meeting if $20,000 could be secured to match the funding, CLA President Chris Yates said he would need to seek permission from his board of directors, although he said fund raising efforts have been under way.
"If you go back and look at the video from earlier (this meeting) you will see what we are dealing with," Yates said. "We will try to find ways to come up with this money."
It was asked during the legislature meeting how much the CLA had in its reserves, which prompted Borrello to point out that the lake association had $500,000 in its accounts. Yates, however, said the reserves - which includes "more than just money" - are needed to "protect the assets of the lake."