Allegany County experiencing difficulties in spending $9 million

“Oh where, oh where do we spend $9 million?”

The Allegany County, NY, Board of Legislators has been facing that issue for more than a year without any specific determinations.

Board members have held two specific Committee of the Whole discussion meetings this month, some two months after receiving the second of two annual payments of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) pandemic funds for local governments, now totaling more than $8.96 million.

During the two latest meetings, County Administrator Carissa Knapp briefed the Board on three department proposals of some $400,000 each, or $1.2 million.

In addition, board members have bounced around other ideas, without decision, including:

– A reduced amount from some $250,000 requested by the Allegany County Fair – New York Board to pave roadways within its property in Angelica, along with some other items, with a gas line having been mentioned.

County Legislator Kevin (Fred) Demick of Angelica has promoted having the paving done by county forces, rather than contracted out this fall, saving significant costs, although no discussion has been evident in regard to how county funds will be able to be used to improve private property.

– Distribution of some of the funds to towns and villages, with some discussion as to whether there should be criteria as to how the monies must be spent.

At an earlier intermunicipal meeting of town supervisors and village mayors, some officials were indicating they already were having difficulty in attempting to determine how to spend the funds that local governments individually were receiving under the ARPA.

– Use of funds to advance acquisition of more county government office space, although some sentiment was expressed that much more money would be required than that having been received from the federal government.

Creating a Consideration Process
The county hasn’t held any public hearings in regard to expenditure of the funds, as have some other governments in the state, with some using their allocations for infrastructure projects, including broadband expansion into rural areas, and other specific economic development projects.

Knapp says that county department heads were surveyed last year in regard to what they perceived as needs which would be difficult to include in an annual budget.

She said, in response to questions from Allegany Hope, that the county doesn’t have an overall county-wide capital plan for major expenditures which some governments use to aid in planning for these type of expenditures.

Such action is a “mid-range goal,” she said. “This year we’ll be working on the budget a little differently and utilizing a digital budget book with a webpage provided for open access and greater transparency to our budget.”

This will enable budget officials an easier option to start a capital plan, Knapp said.

Current Proposed Projects
The three major expenditures which the administrator explained to the board include:

– Aerial imagery of the entire county, last performed some 15 years ago, which would include the purchase of three flyovers across the county, one every other year.

The images are used by planning, economic development, public safety, 911, real property, GIS, public works, emergency management, hazard mitigation, and others, Knapp said.

The project would provide an opportunity to update the imagery and gain a higher resolution than past flights provided, with the first set needed this fall to enable the project to meet funds expenditure criteria.

– The second possible expenditure of $400,000 would be for purchase of law enforcement records management software.

The current system has been operated for years by the state which is phasing it out, without replacement for local governments.

Sheriff Rick Whitney has proposed purchase of software with enough licenses to enable its use by other law enforcement agencies within the County.

Following purchase, local agencies would be billed back a pro rata share of annual maintenance costs.

– The third proposal is for purchase of a buildings control system to operate heating, ventilating and air conditioning, fire suppression, fire alarms, and more among buildings.

The current systems are older and are not integrated between structures, the administrator said, “leaving our buildings to operate on different systems.”

Knapp said, for example, that the County Office Building where the Board room is located is on a different system than the Courthouse, even though both buildings are joined together.

Rather than just updating the current system, the public works department is proposing purchase of an integrated system which will produce greater efficiencies in the future, according to the administrator.

Opioid Settlement Monies Still to be Used
The $9 million in funding doesn’t include some $300,000 expected to be received this year as a result of several opioid settlements from drug manufacturers. Recent payments indicate that some 25 percent of those funds, at least, will be restricted for drug treatment programs.

The ARPA funding must be totally committed by the end of 2024 and completely spent by December 31, 2026, Knapp said.

Two sessions in which Board members bounced around thoughts for possible funds expenditures are at and
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