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How to handle Erie County's infrastructure problem

Erie County Department of Public Works

There is a standard complaint among politicians, that Erie County government does not spend enough money maintaining and nurturing its infrastructure. That is especially true of the legislators who represent communities outside of Buffalo, where the county has roads, bridges and many other things. However, the new chair of the Legislature's Economic Development Committee is promising a proactive approach.

Legislators just grappled with passing measures to pay for a new roof at Erie Community College South, unexpected drainage improvements for Maple Street in East Aurora and an extension of the Lakeshore Shoreline Trail - all adding up to $3.8 million.

There is more to come, with the plan to repair the county's ever-growing list of roads and bridges, as well as the aging structures of ECC North.

"I've been an advocate for revitalizing the North Campus since I got here," said Legislator Tom Loughran, "and these are band-aids, there's no doubt about it, but we have the new STEM building coming on line in the next couple months and I'm going to be advocating for the next project."

There are also projects that are complicated by their nature. For example, the county has agreed with Williamsville to bring a half-mile of Garrison Road between Main Street and Wehrle Drive up to snuff. Once that is done, that stretch of village street will be turned over to the village and any future repairs will be paid for by its taxpayers alone.

Legislator Patrick Burke, who chairs the Legislature's Economic Development Committee, said more needs to be planned and done.

Credit File Photo / WBFO News

"There is a broad problem. It's not just Erie County, but it's statewide and nationally," the West Seneca lawmaker said. "We have infrastructure problems and we have a massive amount of infrastructure here in Erie County, when it comes to our roads and the amount of buildings we own, and it costs money to maintain them. And we've had previous administrations that have neglected these things and now we're playing catch up."

Burke said our region is "almost anti-planning. It just reacts to things." He said it is time for us to be proactive and "think about things long term."

"One of the problems we have is you have leadership that only thinks within the confines of while they're in office. It's a human problem. We all kind of do that," he says, But it requires you, if you're going to be a good government official, to plan ahead."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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