The struggles in the South with an unusual winter storm this past week, particularly the Atlanta region, is perhaps cause for residents of the Olean area, the Southern Tier and Western New York to reflect on the vital service municipal, county and state highway crews provide during winter.
Critical comparisons are perhaps unfair given usual winter weather so far south, but to see a major metro area paralyzed for two or three days by what appeared to be a modest coating of snow and ice is no doubt surprising to folks in this region. It might have even been amusing, if the situation had not been so serious for many people who found themselves stranded away from home.
Thousands of vehicles had to be abandoned along long stretches of highway as drivers sought shelter wherever they could find it — in churches, stores or public buildings. Children were stranded at their schools for as many as two nights while the icy roads were impassable.
State and local officials were scrambling with apologies or excuses at the lack of public services’ ability to handle the winter storm.
Meanwhile, the same kind of weather would have barely registered on winter meters here in the Southern Tier of New York. Slick roads are never something to be scoffed at — and dangerous conditions can result here too — but road crews would maintain or restore passable lanes with far greater speed and efficiency than was seen down South. Again, our local, county and state crews have the equipment and experience to handle the winter weather, but they still have to execute — often in far more fierce winter conditions than crews even in the mid-South might ever experience.
In the winter season, our road crews can be taken for granted — some of us might even find reasons to criticize — but perhaps we don’t know just how good we have it.
Even the most jaded observer of municipal and county government operations had to raise an eyebrow at a state comptroller’s audit finding that nearly $1 million in overtime was paid out at the Allegany County Jail in a year and a half.
Overtime is often a fact of life in police stations, fire houses and sheriff’s departments because of minimum staffing requirements, but $977,000 in 1 1/2 years in one of the most rural counties in New York state? Clearly, members of the Allegany County Legislature must get with Sheriff Rick Whitney, county Administrator Mitchell Alger and the corrections officers’ union to determine how staffing adjustments might offset such a huge expense to Allegany County taxpayers.
No doubt there are members of the jail staff who are more than happy to work the overtime hours, perhaps out of sense of duty and willingness to lend a hand — but also at great personal financial benefit. Who wouldn’t take the opportunity to earn as much as 60 percent of one’s base pay?
But in the end, decisions must be made to benefit the taxpayers, who certainly are not served by paying jail staff double their hourly rate if costs could be mitigated by more staff.
The St. Bonaventure University men’s basketball team defeated a ranked opponent Wednesday for the first time since January 2000, taking down Massachusetts, 78-65, in the Reilly Center.
Featuring a balanced offense — five Bonnies scored in double figures, led by Charlon Kloof with 14 points — SBU rebounded from a tough loss at Duquesne. More than 3,800 screaming fans cheered the Bonnies on, and the always-raucous RC student section stormed the court in celebration.
Indeed, the students were a bit premature in the jubilation, as they poured onto the court with 2 seconds remaining. Order was quickly restored — and the students rushed the court again.
Given the magnitude of the win — the Bona men had been 0-13 since last defeating a ranked foe (UMass was ranked 19th and 21st in two polls) — the students can be forgiven for their zeal.
While Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this past week that the village of Gowanda would receive more than $700,000 in reimbursement of costs resulting from the flood of 2009, it took far too long for the funding to be released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
It’s been more than four years since the devastating storm caused flooding in August 2009. A federal disaster declaration was issued Sept. 1, 2009.
Since that time, the village has incurred most of the expense of rebuilding damaged infrastructure. Plans for further repairs and enhancements had been on hold while the village waited for approval of FEMA funds.
Marking its 28th year, the Olean Area Youth Court heard 12 cases in 2013, giving youthful offenders between the ages of 7 and 15 a chance to be tried by their peers, understand their actions and make amends to society.
Paula Keenan, the youth court coordinator, said nine members of the court, from area high schools, completed a total of 303 volunteer hours in the program. The 12 offenders who had their cases heard in youth court were sentenced to a total of 381 hours of community service, while they were also ordered to complete essays, make office visits and undergo mentoring as well as drug and alcohol abuse counseling.