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Leg chairman: Lobbyist helping county with plan of action

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 April 2015 at 12:00 am

ALBION – The firm hired for $60,000 to help Orleans County have better success with state grants has already helped the county begin developing a game plan for advancing its interests in Albany, Legislature Chairman David Callard said.

He was asked by Al Lofthouse, chairman of the Orleans County Conservative Party, about the lobbyist and how the firm will help the county.

Callard said county officials have already been meeting with a representative from Park Strategies, LCC, an Albany-based lobbying firm founded and chaired by Al D’Amato, the former U.S. senator who represented New York. The Legislature voted March 25 to hire the firm.

“We’re approaching this very positively,” Callard told Lofthouse during last week’s Legislature meeting. “We have outlined a plan of action we intend to take to Albany.”

Among the county priorities:

State funding to expand broadband Internet access in rural pockets in both Orleans and Niagara counties without the service.

State funding for upgrades to the county’s emergency radio communication system to include better coverage in large buildings, including the five school districts, the Orleans-Niagara BOCES site in Shelby and Medina Memorial Hospital.

A plan for the state to better maintain its canal bridges and other infrastructure in Orleans County, including the Lake Ontario State Parkway.

A collaborative proposal for the county to team with the state on some infrastructure projects. Callard said a team approach may be the best long-term answer for keeping bridges and roads in good shape.

The Park Strategies representative is working with the county to develop a five-year plan of priorities and projects to bring to the attention of state officials.

A delegation from the county intends to go to Albany before the legislative session ends in June to meet with state legislators and agency leaders to discuss the plan. Callard said the county will be reaching out to more than the local legislators – State Sen. Robert Ortt of North Tonawanda and Assembly members Steve Hawley of Batavia and Jane Corwin of Clarence.

Callard said the Legislature in about a year will assess the contract with Park Strategies and gauge if the $60,000 expense has been fruitful.

“So far they have been very helpful and broadened our thinking,” Callard said. “Other counties do this as a regular course of business.”