MAYVILLE - The number of projects completed by the Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Economic Development have decreased since its inception.
Jeff Diers, county watershed coordinator, met with the Planning and Economic Development Committee on Wednesday evening to discuss the department's pending and previous projects.
In its first operational year in 2009, 13 projects were completed using funds from the 2 percent bed tax, nine of which were completed on Chautauqua Lake. In 2010, the number decreased to nine projects completed, five of which were on the lake. However, in 2011, the number increased to 16 completed projects, seven of which were on the lake. It decreased drastically, though, in 2012, when only five projects were completed, two of which were on Chautauqua Lake.
According to a table provided by Diers, it is projected that six projects will be completed in 2013, half of which will be on the lake.
"I know there are some discussions on potentially modifying the allocations for 2013, so that's why I'm here, to provide as much information before you make projections," Diers told the committee.
The Planning and Economic Development Committee went through a packet provided by Diers. The packet included a recent resolution showing allocations and other funds going to various organizations; a resolution for proposed funding of projects for 2013; a table showing watershed funding allocated to Chautauqua Lake by the county between 2006 and 2012; and a table showing 2 percent bed tax funding and where it was allocated for 2012.
In 2012, $161,250 was allocated from the bed tax for projects. The projected number for 2013 is $156,420.
"Projects are open to anybody in the county, any government agency within the county," Diers said.
Each application received is ranked and then approved by the legislative body.
George Borrello, R-Irving, noted the project decrease, and asked Diers to explain why the numbers have gone down over the past years.
"Over time, allocations have been moved from projects to, last year, funding was given to the Lake Erie Mandate Commission, the Conewango Dams as well as Soil and Water Conservation District," Diers said. "The overall number of projects awarded used to range from about 12 to 15. Now, we're down to about five."
The Chautauqua Lake Association has received $140,000 for weed harvesting in 2012, and $79,000 in 2011. In 2010, it received $75,000 for weed harvesting and $70,000 for shoreline cleanup. A projected $50,000 will be spent for weed harvesting in 2013.
The Planning and Economic Development Committee discussed funding and emergency funding during the meeting. Borrello said the things done to stop the nutrient load into the lake are, in his opinion, more important than weed harvesting.
"Quite frankly, if we are going to give any additional money for in-lake projects, particularly weed harvesting, there needs to be more accountability and more oversight," he said. "I mean, we gave a blank check, for the most part, to the CLA. We have no account of how that money was spent. That needs to be addressed."
According to Diers, there is accountability for the money spent in the last year in the form of invoices. However, Borrello argued that no audit was done as to how the money was spent.
"You don't know how efficiently it was spent. If you were going to truly audit the situation, that wasn't done," Borrello said. "We gave money and expected it to be spent. They may have produced some invoices, but where is the money being spent? Mostly on labor. We don't really have any accountability on how the labor was accounted for. There's issues there. We never would have allowed a government agency to operate with the level of accountability that the CLA had for our taxpayer dollars."
Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk, agreed with Borrello's statements. He stated that the Legislature needs to know not that people were on the lake for several hours, but what those people were doing while on the lake.
"To send an invoice that the spent the money, that's good," Ahlstrom said. "But, did they actually add something? And, it should be something that we can track from year to year."
Discussions about the lake will continue as necessary.