SENECA FALLS — What direction will the Town Board go in the next 2-4 years?
The results of this year’s election for a supervisor and two council members likely will determine that.
With incumbent Supervisor Greg Lazzaro and board members Lou Ferrara and Vic Porretta leaving the five-member panel at the end of the year, the races are wide open.
The race to fill the seats of Ferrara and Porretta features Republicans Dawn Dyson and Joshua Larsen and Democrats Jean Gilroy and Steve Churchill. Churchill is a former at-large county supervisor.
The Finger Lakes Times submitted four questions to the candidates and asked for their answers. Here are the questions and responses:
What is your position in Local Law 3 of 2016, which would have Seneca Meadows close by Dec. 31, 2025?
CHURCHILL — Local Law 3 is the new great hope we have in ending what has been long, long overdue, the closing of Seneca Meadows. When enforced on Dec. 31, 2025, we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief and somewhat cleaner air. The law was enacted by the 2016 Town Board under great duress. It is fair to say the battle is not over.
It is my belief that SMI (Seneca Meadows) has no intention of ceasing operations in 2025 and is preparing to fight on many fronts. I will work diligently to help forge lasting and fiscally responsible solutions for Seneca Falls that uphold Local Law 3, cease dump operation in 2025 and return our focus to Seneca Falls.
DYSON — We need to have a plan in place for life beyond the landfill.
GILROY — This is a pivotal election where the voters will state loud and clear the future of our town. Local Law 3 needs to be held so that we have the legal bones to fight Seneca Meadows. And the dump needs to close. I am not willing to trade the health of my grandchildren for any amount of money.
The question is, will we be dictated to by the big money of Seneca Meadows or will we stand clean and shining as we take back home rule and take charge of our own future?
LARSEN — Any local law that seeks to eliminate local jobs should be abolished. The state Department of Environmental Conservation, as part of the comprehensive Part 360 landfill permit, has a comprehensive post-closure plan in place that is fully funded per regulatory guidelines. These records are available at the town offices for public review.
If the landfill closes by that date, how can the town make up for the roughly $3 million in lost annual revenue?
CHURCHILL — If Seneca Falls has any hope of a future as a town in which families will want to live and raise their families, then the dump must close. Our town will have to survive financially pretty much like every other town in the state that doesn’t receive dump money. We need to leverage and manage the many resources we have, such as history, water, industry, wonderful schools and a beautiful community.
I believe our Town Board, through hard work, intermunicipal cooperation and good planning, can grow revenues and reduce spending.
DYSON — We need to look into shared services, grants and, unfortunately, possible reductions.
GILROY — It has already been done. Our last two town budgets were independent of landfill money. We do like any other municipality, live on our income from taxes and grants. Our taxes have been artificially suppressed for years so that people think it’s the norm. It isn’t. Thoughtful stewardship of your tax money will take planning, strategy and common sense, but I think we can do it.
We will still get money from SMI over the next five years. It is important to have a community conversation on how that money is being used.
LARSEN — We need to develop a three- to five-year plan based on revenue and increased expenses. We also need to reduce expenses without jeopardizing critical services such as water, sewer and public safety. The town should be aggressively seeking grants and other available resources that will help fix the aging infrastructure in this town and other priority items that will cost us in the long run.
The town should be using the money from SMI for what it was intended for in the first place, and that is keeping our taxes low. It seems to me the current board spends money faster than they get it and we have nothing to show for it but failing sewer systems, broken water mains, crumbling streets and outrageous taxes.
What alternate plan for solid-waste disposal in the town would you support?
CHURCHILL — The simple solutions begin at home. Recycling, composting, reuse, reduce and refuse. This diversion of material from a landfill is far below what it should be. Laws should mandate that only what needs to be landfilled can be landfilled. Pay as you throw is one program that incentivizes good waste-management practices. We need more than a big blue tote. We can get there if we work together and educate. Seneca Falls pays $300,000 a year to have waste collected and disposed of, so it’s not free.
DYSON — I have heard of no other alternatives except for recycling and composting. While they are both good ideas, they are not enough.
GILROY — Reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle are all imperative. New York City trash comes here, and they have no disposal plan except to bag it up and sent it north. We need to look at what other municipalities are doing and what is working. The county is moving toward a Solid Waste Management Plan, and we look forward to that.
LARSEN — In addition to waste reduction and recycling strategies, there are various alternatives to landfills. They include waste-to-energy incineration, anaerobic digestion, composting, mechanical biological treatment, pyrolysis and plasma arc gasification.
What are other major issues faced by the town and how would you deal with them?
CHURCHILL — We need to repair town government with more transparency, respect, improving morale, implementing best practices, listening to and valuing community members. We need to repair and replace our aging water and sewer infrastructure by securing grants, ensuring that all users pay their fair share, use best technologies, plan, and avoid costly solutions.
Keep taxes as low as possible by attracting new business ventures, identify wants vs. needs, solicit community input, grow revenues by supporting tourism activities, reduce waste and increase efficiencies and develop municipal and regional partnerships. Also, we need to work with local and regional groups that are focused on keeping our lakes clean and our air and water clean for generations to come. We need to preserve our heritage and develop and maintain a good comprehensive plan.
DYSON — Businesses leaving. The town needs to be more business friendly by offering incentives to come here. Under spending, we need to look into shared services, grants, develop a realistic budgets and prudently spend our tax dollars.
GILROY — The closing of the dump will cause the loss of jobs. I would be sorrowful for that and hope every employee will be able to find future employment with good health benefits. They have five years to find a new job. In today’s business world, many employees have a one-day notice on the elimination of a job. I am concerned that our businesses such as Goulds and BonaDent will close and leave because of the odor and no one wants to live here. Most businesses don’t need much of an excuse to leave.
On economic growth, for too long, Seneca Falls economic growth has meant landfill growth. We need to take back the town, shake up, change up with a new team and a new vision for our wonderful town.
LARSEN — The lack of economic development in the core of Seneca Falls. We need to put together a plan to make it easier for people to start businesses in our area that create jobs and bring revenue to our town. As assistant chief of the Seneca Falls Fire Department, I have seen my share of opioid overdoses. We need to make sure our police department is properly funded so they can handle this growing problem. We need to keep taxes low. We cannot keep raising taxes to cover senseless spending. A majority of people that live here are on a fixed income and cannot afford to pay more and more each year.