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Collins Crafts A Good Deal For County At City's Expense
By The Insider
Apr 23, 2009, 11:55
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County Executive Chris Collins must be a decent poker player because he just bluffed Mayor Byron Brown in a game of high stakes parks and recreation. Collins and Brown announced a one year deal to have the City of Buffalo pay Erie County $3.5 million to operate the city parks for 2009. The $3.5 million is on top of the $900,000 the City had already paid the county this year.

The $3.5 million dollar figure seems high considering Legislator John Mills announced that the County was losing $1.2 million a year on the joint parks agreement in 2007. The City had been paying the County $1.8 million a year since the agreement was crafted in 2004. So, according to Mills and also then Legislator Mike Ranzenhofer, it was costing the County $3 million to run the parks in 2007. Now, the County is telling Mayor Brown it needs $4.4 million to run the very same parks in 2009.

Certainly the County provided a spread sheet to the City detailing why the cost has gone up but we would think the Buffalo Common Council will want to know why the price has jumped up $1.4 million in one year.

Sources tell us that Brown had little wiggle room because the hiring for the part-time parks jobs had to begin immediately. If Buffalo’s parks were not opened up in time for little league baseball and the like, Brown had a major public relations problem on his hands. Chris Collins had Brown in a pickle and he knew it. The one compromise Collins made was to have the grass cut every two weeks instead of every three.

County Parks Commissioner Jimmy Hornung is doing a fine job and is certainly a couple steps up from former restaurant owner Andy Sedita, who was Commissioner under Giambra. Still, the agreement drafted between Giambra and then Mayor Masiello in 2004 has hurt the City parks.

The agreement stated that the County would pay for maintenance and the City for Capital improvements. The gray line between what constitutes maintenance and what is capital has had employees from the two municipality’s constantly in disagreement and as a result many of the parks are in poor condition.

We will have to say that the County Executive’s “my way or the highway” attitude paid off for the County this time and at the city’s expense.

Speaking of Collins, he has once again resurrected the capital borrowing agreement with the County Control Board. This plan was agreed to last year, but then there was yet another falling out between the two sides and it never materialized.

The ECFSA has done Erie County more harm than good. Mark Poloncarz, Chris Collins, Joel Giambra and the County Legislature never unanimously agree on anything except that last statement.

While everyone is up in arms over the $70,000 Joe Mesi is about to make working for the Senate Majority, ECFSA Director Ken Vetter makes in the neighborhood of $110,000 to be the day to day caretaker of the Board.

Mark Poloncarz has estimated that the Control Board has actually cost the County over $100 million over its existence. Those are revenues and fees that would have been generated from tax lien sales or penalties paid and higher interest rates because of delayed borrowing.

The ECFSA does not affect County salaries and only needs to give approval on expenditures over $50,000. So what does the ECFSA actually do to provide “adult supervision” as was suggested by disgraced, convicted and defrocked former State Comptroller Alan Hevesi?

Poloncarz and Collins will tell you this Board of former political appointees and private sector CEO’s has done nothing constructive to improve the process. The ECFSA has basically become a body of obstructionists and a major bottleneck for Erie County when doing business. Advisory status for the ECFSA means more than Chris Collins collecting a salary, it will save Erie County millions of dollars a year.

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