BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz spoke on a number of investments, initiatives and projects during his 2023 State of Erie County Address on Thursday at the Erie County Public Library.
Here is a summary of some of the main points addressed by Poloncarz. You can watch the full address above.
Poloncarz said that Erie County will be investing in total $25 million into affordable housing funds to create working-class housing across the community. Most notably, $20 million in unspent Great American Rescue Plan funds will contribute to the initiative.
Specifically, Poloncarz said the county will be investing $2.2 million will be invested the county’s housing rehabilitation program to assist approximately 90 homeowners through zero percent interest loans. Two newly built family homes will also open in Lackawanna in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
Additionally, $2 million of the federal funds will be going towards four housing projects: two in Hamburg, one in Angola and one in the City of Tonawanda. The funds will facilitate the construction of 187 new housing units and rehabilitate 119 others. It is a combined $123 million investment.
New Erie County holding center
Poloncarz stated that the county will be investing in a new jail, and Sheriff John Garcia told News 4 that the Buffalo Grand Hotel is being eyed as the new location.
You can read more on the announcement and potential ramifications here.
Strengthening snow response fleet
Additional machinery will soon be available for the next big winter storm in Erie County thanks to a $5 million investment.
Poloncarz revealed that the county will be bringing in:
– Two Oshkosh H-series road blowers
– 10 new high lifts that can also be used during summer construction
– Increased fleet of tracked vehicles for Sheriff’s Office
“When it comes to clearing snow, responding quickly and saving lives, it’s worth every penny,” Poloncarz said.
New Erie County ambulance services
The Erie County Department of Health’s Division of Emergency Medical Services will create its own ambulance service, Poloncarz announced.
The department has already obtained approval from New York State for the service, and Erie County will be purchasing five ambulances and hire paramedics and EMTs to staff them. They will be positioned throughout the community in designated places as deemed necessary.
In the program’s pilot phase, Poloncarz said they will work with outer ring municipalities and areas south of Route 20A.
In other medical-related news, Poloncarz said the county will be purchasing and donating AEDs to community centers, senior centers, sports leagues and other organizations, referencing the Damar Hamlin incident as reasoning for it.
Infrastructure and roads
Poloncarz revealed that an additional $50 million will be going towards the rehabilitation of county roads and bridges.
In 2023, more than 100 miles of county roads will see improvements and construction projects. Some of these roads include sections of Borden Road, Kenmore Avenue, Cleveland Drive, Brighton Road, Abbott Road, Back Creek Road, Vermont Hill Road and more.
Improved internet access
Poloncarz revealed that the Erie Net project’s design is complete, and that construction will begin on the project in the coming weeks.
The project will bring nearly 400 miles of new broadband internet access to many corners of Erie County. It is being funded through the Great American Rescue Plan.
Similarly, Poloncarz said that library investments will provide 253 personal hotspots and 64 Chromebook kits for portable wifi access that can be checked out.
Erie County parks
Poloncarz touched on plans to reconstruct the Shank House at Grover Cleveland Golf Course, the oldest farm homestead in Buffalo. It will be turned into a museum of Park Department artifacts and history. Similarly, the process of redeveloping the Wendt Beach Mansion and horse stables will begin, however, no specific plan is in place.
Shelters and other amenities will also continue to be rehabilitated, and Poloncarz also discussed a push to continue constructing inclusive playgrounds. Two more will soon open at Akron Falls and Chestnut Ridge, making a total of six in the county.
New Bills stadium news
Poloncarz reiterated many points regarding the new Bills stadium in Orchard Park that is awaiting legislator approval before construction can begin.
A groundbreaking is on the horizon, according to Poloncarz. You can read more about the new Bills stadium here.
Southtowns Advanced Waste Water Treatment Facility Expansion Project
The Erie County Division of Sewage Management will begin phase one of the $150 million project, which Poloncarz called the most significant investment in the Erie County sewer districts in 40 years.
“When the work is complete, Lake Erie will be cleaner for all,” Poloncarz said.
Adam Gorski is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team in 2022. You can find more of his work here.