SENECA FALLS — Hiring a full-time town administrator or manager, planning for the closure of Seneca Meadows Landfill and continuing to upgrade water and sewer infrastructure are among the priorities of new Supervisor Mike Ferrara.
Speaking at his first meeting as head of the Town Board Tuesday, the former teacher and coach also urged residents to get involved in town government, promising to answer their questions. He said meetings will be run in a more relaxed manner than in the past, displaying good humor to prove his point.
He began by saying the metal detector used to screen people attending prior board meetings will not be used, and there will not be a police presence “other than the police chief, who will be here anyway.”
Ferrara asked people to continue signing up with the town clerk by the Thursday before meetings to address the board, but said they will still be able to speak at meetings without signing up. He said comments should be limited to three to five minutes “but I don’t have a stopwatch or egg timer.”
“We will try to answer questions if we can. If not, we’ll get you answers later. We want you to be informed and involved. It’s your town government,” Ferrara said.
The issues Ferrara identified as priorities in 2020 and beyond are:
SENECA MEADOWS: He noted that SMI has an Article 78 lawsuit against the town over its adoption of Local Law 3 of 2016, which required the landfill to close by Dec. 31, 2025. Oral arguments are scheduled for 2 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Seneca County courthouse in Waterloo.
Ferrara said he will revitalize the town’s solid waste committee, with an eye toward more recycling, composting and reducing the town’s solid waste footprint. He urged people to join that committee to work toward solutions. He said a separate committee may be formed to examine the impacts of the closure of the landfill, both economically and environmentally.
“We need to work with SMI, keep them accountable for meeting terms of the host agreement, including odors, and we need to resume audits to make sure we are getting the proper contribution from the landfill,” Ferrara said.
Closing the landfill means decisions will have to be made about disposing of town waste, the loss of $3 million a year in revenue from the landfill and the loss of jobs and related economic impacts.
“Trucking our trash several miles down the road to another landfill isn’t an environmental solution,” he said.
FINANCIAL PLANNING: Ferrara said a plan to slow spending and stabilize or reduce taxes needs to be developed. He said the town needs to take a serious look at services, especially without landfill revenue.
“We need to be more effective and efficient. It’s a big town with a former village and we need someone to run the day to day business of the town,” he said.
BAYARD STREET: A two-block section of East Bayard Street was closed last August at the direction of the state, which determined that the 150-year-old stone tunnel that runs under the road to allow drainage from a pond on the south side of the street to the canal on the north side is crumbling and unsafe. The street was reopened Dec. 26 for limited traffic, and Ferrara said a decision will have to be made on how to fix the tunnel and who’s responsible to pay for it, the town or the state.
SEWER LINE FROM ROUTE 414: Ferrara said there is some urgency in finding a solution for replacing a deteriorating, undersized sewer line from Route 414 east along River Road into West Bayard Street to the wastewater treatment plant on Seneca Street. That line carries waste from Route 318, the del Lago casino and down Route 414.
He said efforts to use eminent domain to gain access to the Ludovico Sculpture Trail to run the line under the path is seen as the best option, but that issue has not been resolved.
“Otherwise, we go to Plan B, running the line down West Bayard Street, disrupting sidewalks, driveways, lawns and the street. It would be more costly and more disruptive, but a decision is needed soon,” he said.
DRI: The town’s 2019 receipt of a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant from the state “is a very big deal,” Ferrara said. “Things will move at a fast pace. I urge everyone to get involved. Proposals for the grant are due January 17. This grant will make a big difference to downtown and the Sackett District.”
INTERNET TV: Ferrara said he’s had discussions with a Geneva-based company called CBN about bringing an alternative internet television service to the town, offering an option to Spectrum at a lower cost.
OTHERS: Ferrara said he wants to update the town’s website and explore shared services with the county, other municipalities and the school district. He also wants to submit overdue corrective plans in response to findings of recent state audits.