ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB)
Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw claimed this week many of the county’s parks hazardous to users’ health, due to the possibility of lead poisoning on playground equipment, and Mychajliw blames it on County Executive Mark Poloncarz’s fiscal mismanagement.
County lawmaker Lynn Dixon, who is challenging Poloncarz in the county executive race, agrees with Mychajliw, but Poloncarz says county parks officials are trying their best to get the lead out.
Mychajliw said an accounting review of parks expenditures by the Comptroller’s office turned up millions of dollars made available for capital improvements, but some of it has been banked, running up thousands of dollars in interest on loans.
“If you are a homeowner you would never take out a loan to say I am going to fix my roof, don’t do the repair, and then pay interest on that loan. That is exactly what Erie County is doing.”
Poloncarz countered Wednesday at Chestnut Ridge Park news conference, some of the money is being spent internally, so it is not showing up on the books the way it should.
“Our staff orders the timber, our staff orders the bracing, our staff orders the masonry. It comes in, it is sitting in a pile of all the stuff they have. They come here they build it,” instead of paying contractors to do the work, Poloncarz said.
Mychajliw said the most glaring deficiencies when it comes to parks upkeep is the playground equipment. Comptroller’s staff took samples of paint in a number of county parks, and they all tested positive for lead.
“That is why the county executive needs to shut down every single playground in county parks until they can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ there is lead, or not lead, on playground equipment.”
Erie County Legislator Lynn Dixon, who is running against Poloncarz in the county executive election in November supports Mychajliw’s findings about the spending and the conditions at county parks.
“We approved the funding to do the work at county parks and a lot of it has gone unspent. So now we are paying interest on borrowed money that we haven’t spent.”
Poloncarz said he is not closing the county parks based on Mychajliw’s findings, “The Health Department is coming out here with the specialized equipment. If they identify that a piece is unsafe will do one of two things: we will take it out or we will encapsulate it and ensure that it is safe.”
The County Executive added, most of the county’s playground equipment was purchased after 1978, when lead paint was banned for consumer use, and the fixtures are made of plastic or metal.