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Mark Poloncarz: Autumn brings a focus on budget, county parks improvements

HAMBURG — This time of year is marked by changing leaves, crisp nights and the promise of colder weather on the horizon. It is also the time of year that Erie County prepares its tentative budget for the coming year, and our division of budget and management has been hard at work on that task.

Creating a budget for a $1.5 billion entity like Erie County is a big job that requires exhaustive attention to detail, but at this early juncture, I am pleased to report that there will be no property tax rate increase for Erie County residents in the 2014 budget.

While we are still adjusting the tentative budget, prior to its release on Oct. 15, I thought it was important to share that piece of good news, to let taxpayers know that we are working hard to keep costs in line, while still delivering the many services they expect and deserve in our county.

Recently I was joined by Parks Commissioner Troy Schinzel, to highlight my administration’s investments in just one of those services: our parks. Since I took office in January 2012, approximately $4.5 million has been spent on capital projects across Erie County’s 14 parks, beaches and golf courses, with another $2.5 million of improvements and renovations slated for 2014. Not only does this represent a substantial amount of progress in our work to protect and enhance our parks for future generations, I am pleased to say that these projects encompass the entire parks system.

Many improvements are being completed, through close cooperation between the parks and highway departments, efficiently saving money and resources for taxpayers, through use of common assets. With more than 300 structures and many miles of roads and parking lots spread throughout the system, cooperation of this nature is essential.

The hard work of these departments is on display every time a park-goer drives on a newly paved road, enjoys a picnic at a shelter with a new roof and amenities or spends time doing recreational activities at a park, beach or golf course.

Extensive work has been done at Chestnut Ridge Park, which is considered to be the “crown jewel” of our parks system. This 1,213-acre gem had improvements done to numerous shelters, with roofs replaced and concrete pads reinforced, along with parking area enhancements. Improvements to the tennis courts built on successes of 2012, with repairs and resurfacing done on eight more courts, along with newly installed hardware. Parking lot and roadway improvements will also lead to a smoother and more enjoyable driving experience for all.

Many other parks saw work, as well. Shelters were repaired and the valley bridge was replaced at Akron Falls Park; extensive repairs were done on shelters and gazebos at Como Lake Park; Emery Park had major upgrades done to Stohrer’s Lodge and comfort stations; improvements to the maintenance building and parking areas took place at Wendt Beach and golfers also enjoyed improvements to the Grover Cleveland and Elma Meadows courses.

Work will continue as long as the weather holds, so come out and enjoy your Erie County parks!
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