Little Valley — Olean broke ground on a new water filtration plant Monday, while 20 miles to the north, planning continues to build a monster garbage dump that opponents say will threaten underground fresh water supplies across the region.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Cattaraugus County Legislator James J. Snyder of Olean told his colleagues on the Legislature Wednesday. “We just can’t allow that to happen. We’ve got to gear up to stop this landfill from going in.”
The proposed 423-acre landfill in the town of Farmersville is the largest of several clouds that cast a shadow on “good things” happening in the county and across the Southern Tier, said Mr. Snyder.
He held up recent copies of The Times Herald with front page stories on Olean’s new filtration plant and on Dresser-Rand’s recent multimillion-dollar commitment to its Olean, Wellsville and Painted Post plants that will bring as many as 500 new jobs.
That’s the good news, Mr. Snyder said. The bad news, he said, is the county is not in step with the fast pace of developments that could help usher in new prosperity for the region.
Mr. Snyder called on his colleagues to refocus their attention on issues he said could derail this economic recovery: the Farmersville landfill, inactivity on needed airport improvements, and the county’s decision to keep the 4 percent tax on clothing sales.
Mr. Snyder distributed a letter from the Rev. James Snodgrass, pastor of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Olean and a member of the Farmersville Task Force.
The Rev. Snodgrass said recent changes to the town of Farmersville’s waste disposal law “help clear the way” for Southern Tier Waste of Niagara Falls to move ahead with its landfill plans. He noted also that the Task Force is suffering from a lack of unity and leadership and that the “strong opposition to this proposed landfill has eroded over several years.”
He calls for an immediate meeting of the task force, the appointment of new leadership and a recommitment to keeping the landfill issue in the public spotlight. Mr. Snyder echoed the plea Wednesday.
“We have to stop this landfill. I don’t care what resources we have to put in to do that,” he said.
Regarding the airport, Mr. Snyder said with Dresser-Rand’s plan to move its corporate headquarters from Houston to Olean, there will be increased corporate air travel, and the county had better be ready to accommodate those needs.
He said it’s time to declare dead a plan for a new regional airport and move ahead with improvements to the Olean Municipal Airport.
An ongoing study that looks at the options of improving the Olean airport or building a new county airport north of Salamanca is expected to be out in a matter of weeks.
There is no support in the Legislature for building a new airport costing $50 million or more, Mr. Snyder said, and the study has only delayed needed improvements to the Olean facility.
“If we’re going to have a funeral (for the new county airport proposal), let’s get on with it and do something to fix up Olean,” Mr. Snyder said.
Finally, Mr. Snyder said increased retail development in Olean’s West End is butting heads with the county’s decision to keep its 4 percent sales tax on clothes.
Counties have the option of keeping or rescinding their share of the tax on clothing. Mr. Snyder said Cattaraugus County should follow Chautauqua County’s lead and eliminate its 4 percent tax on clothing sales, keeping customers who now drive to Chautauqua County or Pennsylvania, which also has no sales tax on clothing.
“We can’t sit here with our heads in the sand,” Mr. Snyder said. “I hope we can remove the 4 percent tax on clothing.”
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