Local News Headlines

WJTN News Headlines for Thurs., Dec. 16, 2021

County Legislature approves increases in Sheriff's Office salary ranges...
Chautauqua County lawmakers last night approved a local law increasing the salary range for a number of officers and employees of the Sheriff's Office.  During the legislature's monthly meeting in Mayville... the panel voted 18-0 to amend an existing local law to raise the salary ranges for the positions of undersheriff, captain, warden, and corrections lieutenant.  Legislator Terry Niebel of Sheridan, who sponsored the measure, says the increases by "2 to 3 ranges" are warranted.  Niebel says county officials made comparisons to 32 other counties when the local law was first proposed, and the adjustments would put Chautauqua County in the middle of that pack.  He says the Sheriff and Human Resources Department reviewed and compared those salaries.  The increases will take effect on Jan. 1.
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Also during Wednesday's meeting, lawmakers unanimously backed several resolutions amending the 2022 county budget to implement projects that will be funded by the American Rescue Plan.  Jamestown Democrat Charles Nazzaro lawmakers are closing in on having approved half the amount they are getting.  Nazzaro says the county is receiving $24.6-million in ARPA Funding, and they have now approved $10.2-million in projects.  The county has received just over $12-million in funding so far.  All the funding for the projects will have to be spent and projects completed within five years.

Number of new COVID-19 cases in Chautauqua County down for past week, but, COVID-related deaths increase...
The number of new COVID-19 cases the past week in Chautauqua County are down.... but, the number of deaths reached double figures for the first time in several weeks.  The county's Health Department reports there were 11 new deaths between Dec. 5 and 11, bringing that total to 244.  Officials say there were 726 new cases... bringing that total now to 17,195.  There are now 41 people hospitalized... which is down 10 from last week.  There are 658 active cases... and, 16,293 have now recovered.  Of the new cases... 243 were in the Jamestown 14701 zip code... the only one in triple-figures in recent weeks.  Dunkirk was next with 77 new cases.  The seven-day infection rate is now 10.2%.


Wendel gets some bi-partisan support for position on not enforcing NYS mask mandate...
Two Chautauqua County legislators from the north county area say they support County Executive P.J. Wendel's position that the county will not be enforcing New York's new mask mandate.  Republican Kevin Muldowney of Dunkirk says he supports the mandate, but says enforcement will be difficult.  Muldowney says he understands that localities should not have to enforce a mandate.  Democrat Robert Bankoski of Dunkirk also supports Lakewood Republican's position.  However... both county lawmakers are encouraging local residents who are unvaccinated to get their vaccinations and those who are vaccinated to get their boosters. 


Ripley woman faces up to 9 years in prison on Arson conviction...
A woman from Ripley will spend the next 3 to 9 years in state prison after being convicted of setting a fire in the town of Ripley this past August.  Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt says 53 year-old Melissa Bridges was convicted earlier this Fall of third-degree arson -- a Class D Felony.  The sentence was handed down Wednesday by Chautauqua County Court Judge David Foley.  Bridges is accused of setting the fire on Main Street the morning of Aug. 5.  Schmidt says the conviction was the result of an investigation by the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office.


Watershed Conservancy official outlines issue with eastern part of Chadakoin River in Jamestown...
There are a number of challenges on the eastern end of the Chadakoin River in the city of Jamestown... which is now suffering mainly from neglect.  That from Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy Ecological Restoration Manager Twan Leenders... who made a power-point presentation about those challenges to City Council this week.  Leenders there's a 3-and-a-half mile stretch of the river that is seeing severe bank erosion... even to retaining walls like one behind The Chautauqua Center.  He says just in a matter of a few months, the higher water had broken the wall in two.  Leenders recently took some council members on a tour of the river to the Falconer village line... and, says the water has been high this Fall... and, that's furthering bank erosion.  Leenders says another issue is that trees have fallen into the river... and, that's diverting the flow in places and causing more erosion.  He says another issue is that the high water at times promotes an environment for invasive species to enter the river area.  Leenders says they're looking at an initial investment of nearly $634,000 to clean-up the waterway, and shore up banking where necessary.  City Council will look at possibly using some American Rescue Plan funding for that.


Several U.S. Colleges starting to require vaccines, have mask mandates, and on-line instruction in wake of spiking COVID cases...
Colleges across the U.S. are starting to require booster shots, extend mask mandates and in some cases revert to online classes as they brace for the new omicron variant.  More than 20 colleges have said they will require boosters, including Boston University and Notre Dame.  Others are extending mask mandates into next year, including Penn State.  Still others are planning to start next term online to prevent outbreaks after the holidays.  Some 272 students at Cornell University in Ithaca tested positive for COVID after returning from Thanksgiving break.