COVID mandates heighten push in 2 Erie County towns to join Wyoming County instead

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WGRZ/WHEC) — COVID mandates have intensified discussions of secession in two Erie County towns.

The towns of Wales and Marilla held meetings Wednesday night to navigate the potential of separating and joining neighboring Wyoming County that our Buffalo-area affiliate, WGRZ, attended.

Residents who came to discuss their reasons for wanting a potential divorce with Erie County said they disagreed with the urban county’s COVID mandates, and also have infrastructure concerns.

Marilla Town Supervisor Earl Gingerich said the issue boils down to representation because rural communities don’t feel like their voices are heard in the largely urban and suburban Erie County.

"The people told me they wanted to secede for Wyoming County, it wasn’t me," Gingerich said. "They told me, some of the businesses contacted me and said, ‘We can’t stand it anymore, would you please look into it?’"

Holland, a third town, has also talked about seceding from Erie to Wyoming but did not have a presence at the meeting.

This debate first started over an Erie County policy forbidding 12-year-olds from hunting with family members but has escalated as Erie County takes a more heavy-handed approach with COVID mandates.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz implemented an indoor mask mandate on Nov. 23, almost a full month before Gov. Kathy Hochul implemented her statewide mandate. Poloncarz was also central to pushing for and implementing the proof of vaccination requirements at Buffalo Bills games.