SALAMANCA, NY – Rep. Tom Reed challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo not to break his promises to the City of Salamanca.
The congressman issued the challenge during his weekly media call Wednesday; Salamanca Fire Chief Nicholas Borcharski and Salamanca Mayor Michael Smith participated in the call.
The state owes the City of Salamanca $15 million in revenue from the Seneca Allegany Casino, but for more than two years, Salamanca has not received a penny, according to Reed, who represents the Greater Olean area in Congress.
“It is clear to me that the governor has made a conscious decision to hold the City of Salamanca hostage and not make any payment to the city,” Reed said.
The millions, he added, need to be "delivered to the city in order for it to meet its operational demands.”
The governor’s office did not respond to TAPinto Greater Olean requests for comment.
This feud, according to Reed, has led to significant problems for Salamanca, including public safety issues, especially within the city’s fire department, where resources have become dry.
Because of a lack of money, the Salamanca City Council postponed a plan that would have allowed the city’s fire department to hire more firefighters, Reed said.
“As a result, the public’s safety is at risk,” he said. “This situation is getting real. The governor asked us to stand up for constituents. Well, I am doing exactly that. These are constituents of the City of Salamanca that deserve better.”
During the Reed conference call, the fire chief said that he believes that lack of manpower led to the death of a Salamanca resident in August.
“We had an individual that was in cardiac arrest,” Borcharski said. “We luckily had one paramedic in the city, and he responded by himself. Working with the spouse, he performed CPR until a police officer arrived. Our neighbors were unable to get an ambulance, so our ambulance, which was in Olean, had to race back 20 miles.
“Twenty-nine minutes later, the ambulance arrives to transport the patient back to Olean," Borcharski continued. "I don’t know about you, but this is a manpower problem. We’ve been promised money, but we’re strung out. We can’t get this done. How many people have to die?”
In a phone call with TAPinto Greater Olean after the Reed media conference call, Borcharski said he is the only member of the department living in the city. He added that the department has one three-person crew and one ambulance; it relies heavily on neighboring communities for help and has trained police officers to pump fire trucks.
During the conference call, the mayor expressed the same concerns that Reed did.
With a city budget of only $9 million and the ability to tax 23% of its 5,000 residents (because Native American are not subject to taxes), the city cannot raise enough money to meet its budget, the mayor said.
“A $9 million budget, two thirds of it is compact revenue,” Smith said. “Our tax base is only $900,000 per year. Imagine Congressmen Reed running the federal government and only being able to generate 10% of your budget on taxes.”
“We can’t tax our way out of this," he added. "Every aspect of our operation is affected: our police department, firefighters, first responders and public works department. We are cut short throughout the city.”
Smith, in closing, had one request for Cuomo: “Governor, please, put your money where your mouth is. Three times you’ve told us money is coming, and there’s nothing.”
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