Better communication and more advanced technology is now a reality for 15 Chautauqua County municipalities.
Friday, officials from the Southern Tier West Development Foundation presented laptop computers to 15 municipal highway superintendents. STWDF, a regional charitable organization located in Salamanca, provided 63 percent of the total cost for the computers, software and training, with the remaining funds contributed by the municipalities.
According to a press release from STWDF, the computer technology will address the increasing need for computer literacy at the municipal level for better record keeping, more efficient purchasing, researching funding opportunities and overall better communication.
"The Southern Tier West Development Foundation is pleased to offer its support to the highway superintendents," said Richard Zink, STWDF Board Treasurer. "They have waited a long time to finally have the technology they need in the field. We are pleased to be able to assist them."
The grant from the Foundation will provide computers for 39 municipal highway departments in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.
To address the need for better communication between highway departments, the County Highway Associations will develop websites to share information, such as equipment for sale and meeting schedules. The websites will also provide information to the general public.
"It means quite a bit to some of the poorer towns, who don't have an office or a management budget for themselves as a highway department," said Melvin Peterson, highway superintendent for the town of Busti and president of the Chautauqua County Highway Association. "Some of them don't have any computers at all, so they have to go through the clerk's office to receive any emails. In today's age, the electronic age, everybody needs email. We send a lot of information over emails."
Additionally, Peterson said the laptops will be used to enter highway information. The computer programs will also be able to provide GPS locations for signs.
"It will be handy if we have a storm or an accident, we can relocate signs, make sure that they were at the same location," Peterson said.
Courtney Waters, GIS Project Coordinator, from Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board was on hand to answer any questions the highway superintendents might have, and to provide assistance with the rudiments of the computers. Waters is a member of both county highway associations and serves as the transportation coordinator for Southern Tier West. The Regional Planning Board will be providing the computer training for both counties.
Chautauqua County municipalities receiving computers included Bemus Point, Busti, Cassadaga, Cherry Creek, Clymer, Ellery, French Creek, Jamestown, Lakewood, Poland, Pomfret, Portland, Stockton, Villenova and Westfield.
The mission of the Southern Tier West Development Foundation is to be a catalyst, facilitating opportunities for economic, social, and cultural growth by promoting philanthropy, leadership, innovation, and collaboration in the Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua region. For more information on the Foundation and its mission, please contact Ginger Malak, foundation coordinator, at 945-5301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.