Seneca Nation and State disagree over road repair projects
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IRVING, N.Y. — It’s been an ongoing dispute for months between the Seneca Nation and the state of New York.
The Seneca Nation is requesting three percent of the $47 million the state has allocated for projects within the territory, which includes repair work on Interstate 86 and several bridges. It works out to about $1.7 million.
However, the state says it's the one that's owed money.
"The gaming revenues that the Senecas’ owe the state far dwarf any payment that the state could ever make to the Senecas’ to repair a road," said Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter believes this is retaliation related to the Senecas gaming compact with New York. The Senecas have withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue because the Nation says the state has violated the compact by allowing racinos in its territories.
The state has put an offer on the table to try and balance out money owed on both sides.
"We are proposing that the 1.7 million in project fees be placed in an escrow account and be deducted in the future from the 400 million dollars in casino revenues," said NYSDOT Commissioner Joan McDonald.
However, Porter thinks it’s not an offer worth consideration.
"The absurdity of saying Seneca Nation use money that very well might be your own money to pay our fee, pay our bill for us. Only a fool would take that deal. We’re not fools and if the governor thinks we are, I think he's just mistaken," said Porter.
McDonald says if both sides cannot come to an agreement, the state is prepared to move dollars to other transportation projects in Western New York.
The Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office believes roads like 86 need immediate attention.
“This needs to be resolved. You have public safety here at issue and if we have a 25-mile detour that we have to go in order to help some individual," said Cattaraugus County Sheriff's Captain Robert Buchhardt.
The DOT claims it's ready to start construction as soon as the issue can be resolved. Meanwhile, the Senecas are calling on the U..S inspector general to look into federal transportation funds that were allocated to the state in the 1990s but have not yet been used.