MAYVILLE – There are six fewer representatives in the Chautauqua County Legislature for 2014 as a 19-member body replaces the former 25-member Legislature. New districts were formed for the November election.
Swearing-in ceremonies and a reorganization session were held Thursday in the legislative chambers at the Gerace Office Building.
In addition to a downsized Legislature, the county also has a new executive. Vince Horrigan, a Republican, who formerly represented the Bemus Point area, was elected to replace Gregory Edwards, who opted not to seek another term as the county’s chief executive.
Lawmakers approved a resolution authorizing County Attorney Steve Abdella to serve as acting county executive in Horrigan’s absence. Abdella also served in that role when Edwards resigned from his post on Nov. 15.
Jay Gould, R-Ashville, was renamed chairman of the Legislature. He starts his 13th year as a member of the Legislature. In addition to representing District 19 for the past 12 years, Gould has served as chairman of the Legislature’s Audit and Control Committee for the past two years, and has been a member of the Aging, Human Services and Stop DWI committees.
David Himelein, R-Findley Lake, was named majority leader. His party holds 13 of the 19 seats on the floor. John Runkle, R-Cassadaga, will serve as assistant majority leader.
The Democrats chose Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk, as minority leader and Shaun Heenan, D-Dunkirk, as assistant.
Katherine K. Tampio of Silver Creek was reappointed to her post as the clerk of the Legislature. Lori Foster was named deputy clerk.
The Legislature is expected to revisit the issue of selling the Chautauqua County Home in Dunkirk at some point in the future. Proponents of the sale needed only one additional vote in October when the issue came before the Legislature. An offer to purchase the home had been made by a downstate nursing home owner who is reportedly still interested in acquiring the facility.
Other major issues for the new term will include a review and possible sale of either or both of the county’s airports, located in Dunkirk and Jamestown.
Social services programs also are expected to be on future agendas. Members of the Health and Human Services Committee have been considering efforts to reduce spending on Medicaid and other forms of public assistance. Committee members have been forming the wording of a resolution to more strictly require residency for people who obtain public assistance in the county.
The new Legislature also is expected to choose someone to head the public defender’s office. Advertisements seeking letters and references for the post have been made public in the last few weeks.
The first regular meeting of the Legislature will be held on Jan. 22.