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Erie County Executive candidates trade jabs over road repairs

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Less than a week before Election Day, the challenger for Erie County Executive is accusing the incumbent of lacking a comprehensive road repair plan. The incumbent, though, says not only is a plan in place, but road spending is up over the previous administration.

Challenger Ray Walter stood along Old Lake Shore Road in Lake View, where the roadway was spotted with patches. Walter says roads throughout Erie County, especially in rural areas, are in poor condition and he accused the incumbent, Mark Poloncarz, of lacking a comprehensive plan to fix them.

"I've spent my summer and fall talking to stakeholders, residents, town highway superintendents who take the complain calls, the majority of which are about county roads," Walter said. "The highway superintendents all tell me the same thing: they have plans. They know what's being paved this year, what's being paved next year at the year after that. But they all agree, the county has no such plan."

Walter said, if elected, he would within the first 100 days of his administration develop a five-year, county-wide comprehensive and proactive road plan.

The County Executive, responding to Walter's comments in a telephone interview with WBFO, suggested those remarks smacked of hypocrisy on the challenger's part. Poloncarz pointed out that Walter, as someone who served two years in the Erie County Legislature, should be well aware that the county has a plan to address road repairs.

"He knows that we have a plan," Poloncarz said. "Every year we come up with a plan for the roads that we're going to do the following year.

"He was the chief hatchet man for my predecessor, and was joined at the hip with the former county executive in refusing to spend more than $60 million of stimulus money that was supposed to go to create jobs and repair infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, but was never spent."

Poloncarz pointed out in his telephone interview that his administration has increased road and bridge spending by $10 million per year over the Collins administration. He added that the county will spend "upwards of $45 million" on roads, compared to about $27 million under Collins.

Walter, in his news conference, acknowledged that the Poloncarz administration is spending more on roads but said the problem is not how much is being spent, but rather, how it is being spent.

"It's all based on a triage system and determined by politics," Walter said. "Decisions aren't made by the professionals on the ground but the politicians on the 16th floor (of the Rath Building)."

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