By Rick Miller

Cattaraugus County lawmakers are looking for a way to deed a former Ellicottville cutlery to the village, which has expressed interest in acquiring the property.

The former Burrell Cutlery property, 24 Rockwell Ave., Ellicottville, was about to be taken by the county for nonpayment of back property taxes several years ago.

The property was among a handful that County Treasurer Joseph G. Keller recommended be investigated for possible contamination before the county seized the properties for back taxes.

Last week, member of the county legislature’s County Operations/Public Safety Committee conducted a closed-door executive session on the issue after it was raised by Legislator Joseph Snyder, R-Ischua.

County Attorney Eric Firkel suggested the executive session after legislators spent several minutes discussing the property.

Before the executive session was called, Snyder said the property was in “legal limbo” because the county had not foreclosed on it.

“Ellicottville wants to take control,” Snyder said. “There are a couple of buildings there that are falling down.” He said he wanted to know what the county could do to get it into the village’s hands.

The village reportedly isn’t interested in using the property for future development since it is in a residential neighborhood. However, it is just a block away from downtown restaurants and could possibly be used for a parking lot.

Daniel Martonis, director of the Real Property Tax Services Office said a phase two study was performed on the property along with two other former industrial sites in the county. He said he doesn’t believe there are any underground storage tanks on the property.

The committee adjourned without taking any action.

IN OTHER NEWS, Crystal Abers, director of the Department of Economic Development, Planning and Tourism expects officials from the company that conducted studies in Ellicottville, Franklinville and Gowanda to attend committee meetings in June to discuss the findings.

Martonis asked for two new positions in the Real Property Tax Services Office, a full-time assessor and a part-time data collector. Martonis said more towns are asking the county to take over their assessing functions.

“People will blame the Legislature” if their assessment goes up, warned Legislator Vergilio “Dick” Giardini, D-Allegany. He said he didn’t recall anyone’s assessment going down during a revaluation of a town.

Martonis said his experience has shown that in a revaluation, about one-third of the properties go down, one-third stay the same and one-third go up.

“The big thing for me is that people are paying their fair share of the tax,” Giardini said.

“Until everyone is paying 100 percent (assessment), no one is paying a fair share,” Martonis replied.

Martonis has a staff of five in his office. They are assessors for three towns and three more towns are getting assistance. As more assessors get toward the end of their terms, several are planning to retire.

Some towns have expressed interest in having the county conduct their assessments, revals and data collection. “It’s not a county take-over, but a partnership,” Martonis told the Olean Times Herald.

It’s also Monday through Friday coverage through a voice on the phone at the county Real Property Tax Services Office. Many town assessors have limited hours and are hard to reach.

Martonis said the new positions will help his office to straighten out assessments in the town of Dayton as well as prepare for future assessing work with the towns.