Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County's future location remains unknown.
During the Chautauqua County Legislature's Public Facilities Committee meeting earlier this month, Cornell Cooperative Extension representatives questioned a proposed lease agreement, which proposed a rent increase of $2,660.25 per month.
The rent increase was proposed following the USDA moving out of the county-owned Frank W. Bratt Agriculture Center building at 3542 Turner Road. The USDA, now housed at the former Ames Plaza building on Fluvanna Avenue in Jamestown, shared the Bratt building with CCE.
"It's frustrating when trying to look ahead," said Laurie Livingston, executive director for Cornell Cooperative Extension. "Members of the staff are nervous."
CCE is currently seeking a one-year lease extension at their previous rate, $1,390 per month, until they can figure out the best course of action - which may include moving facilities - based on the decision of the county.
If the Chautauqua County Legislature requires the CCE to increase their monthly rent by $2,660.25, the nonprofit will be forced to either lay off staff or move to a new location.
At the meeting held earlier this month, George Spanos, director of Public Facilities, explained how the rent increase was determined.
"When the USDA moved out, we put together a fair market value based on a comparison of rates at other properties," Spanos said.
While the USDA costs were federally subsidized, CCE does not receive any federal subsidies, forcing the rent increase to be drawn from operating costs. Essentially, the proposed increase would require CCE to pay for the previously subsidized rent of the USDA on top of their own rent, without federal subsidies.
"It is unrealistic," Livingston said of the rent increase.
Reportedly, the county has been working toward securing another tenant to share the rent cost with CCE.
Livingston added that since 1978, the Frank W. Bratt building has been a "one-stop shop" for farmers, and for that reason she would like the CCE to stay put.
"This is a great facility," she noted.
Due to the CCE's 4-H and Master Gardener programs, green space is needed, which the Frank W. Bratt building provides adequately.
CCE's operating budget is comprised of enrollment fees, grants, funding and some Chautauqua County subsidies which go directly to salaries, programming and the 4-H program.
County Executive Vince Horrigan stopped by CCE with hopes of helping the county and CCE reach an agreement last week.
"We'll work something out," Horrigan said. "I fully expect to."
Horrigan mentioned that he plans to have a resolution completed to present at next month's legislature meeting, outlining a plan to keep CCE in its current location.