Use of tobacco funds is debated by board
PIKE - Wyoming County supervisors were urged to use part of the county's estimated $7.1 million in tobacco settlement proceeds for programs to reduce smoking.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved the creation of a local development corporation to use bonds in the sale of future tobacco payments. This was after members of the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association of Western New York asked for more funding for prevention efforts.
Hillary Clarke, regional advisory director for the American Cancer Society, said funding could be used by county or other agencies.
"Today, you have a unique opportunity to provide the children of Wyoming County with a future that is unclouded by heart disease, emphysema, lung cancer and the myriad other diseases that arise from the use of tobacco products," Clarke said.
Kathleen Callan, program director for the American Lung Association of Western New York, said the county also needs to make provisions for tobacco control.
"Why should Wyoming County residents care?" Callan asked rhetorically. "Your county is having trouble breathing."
County officials said proceeds from the bond sale can be used only for debt reduction or capital improvements, but County Administrator Kevin DeFebbo said money the county saves in these areas from future tobacco payments could be instead diverted to prevention programs.
Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Anne Humphrey said a county subcommittee is also looking into ways to legislate smoke-free environments in the county.
"We must make a long-term commitment to address these problems," Clarke said.
County officials said they are taking part in the state Association of Counties bond program to sell Wyoming County's share of the tobacco settlement between several states and the tobacco industry.
County Treasurer John Edwards said the county was originally going to receive $14 million over a 30-year period, but county leaders are concerned that not all of the settlement money will come in.
The money is part of a $206 billion nationwide settlement by the tobacco industry.
A provision of the settlement states that the total can decrease if tobacco use goes down.
Wethersfield Supervisor Ronald P. Herman Sr. was the only official to vote against the measure.
Herman said he thinks the county can get more than $7.1 million by just waiting for payments. He said it's a gamble worth taking, but acknowledged that he was in the minority.
"I'm willing to take the chance," Herman said.
DeFebbo said the county can expect to get the payment in late fall.
In other matters, supervisors proclaimed this week "Wyoming County Fair Week." Fair Queen Sarah Meyer, crowned Monday night, was at the meeting in the Wyoming County Fair's Youth Building to accept the honor. The 17-year-old Strykersville resident will be a senior at Attica Central School.
Supervisors also approved tax foreclosure of the former Almor building on South Main Street in Warsaw. The Fairview Apex Paper Co. is interested in using the site for a warehouse.
The company also has a facility at 200 Allen St. in Warsaw.