SENECA FALLS — Seneca Meadows Inc., which owns and operates the Northeast’s largest landfill along Route 414, looms large in this community, both in its physical presence and in local elections.
As in 2019, when town residents elected a supervisor and two board members, this year’s election for two seats on the five-member Town Board is no exception.
SMI has paid for several full-page ads in the Finger Lakes Times, using a question-and-answer format to extol its economic benefits to the community. The company has offered to pay for a new police patrol vehicle and Community Center equipment as part of the discussion surrounding a 2022 town budget.
Meanwhile, a group called Responsible Solutions for New York once again has produced campaign materials advocating for the election of Republican Town Board candidates Kaitlyn Laskoski and Frank Sinicropi. The two are trying to unseat incumbent Democrats Dave DeLelys and Doug Avery.
“Seneca Falls deserves responsible elected leaders who will put taxpayers first and protect our tax dollars,” a mailer sent to town residents stated, urging voters to cast their ballots for Laskoski and Sinicropi.
It makes no mention of the landfill.
In 2019, Responsible Solutions for New York endorsed Republicans Mike Ferrara for supervisor and Dawn Dyson and Joshua Larsen for Town Board seats. Ferrara and Dyson won. Larsen did not.
At the time, glossy color fliers supporting the GOP slate were mailed to town voters Oct. 18, 2019.
A search of the state Board of Elections website shows Responsible Solutions for New York as now having a website — the company did not two years ago — and an address of 17 Red Oak Lane, Apt. B, Old Bridge, NJ, different than 2019. It has received financial support from Waste Connections of New York, which shares Texas and Canadian addresses with Waste Connections Inc., the parent company of Seneca Meadows.
The most recent campaign finance filings with the state Board of Elections shows Waste Connections making three loans of $20,000 each to Responsible Solutions for New York on Oct. 5. Waste Connections also reported an in-kind contribution of $90.24 Sept. 27.
Among Responsible Solutions’ liabilities: $9,500 to Mercury Public Affairs of New York City on Aug. 12 and $5,000 to the same firm Sept. 1.
“Waste Connections is not based in New York and doesn’t care about responsible solutions for our town,” Rachel Weil, chairwoman of the Seneca Falls Democratic Committee, said in a statement issued Tuesday. “It is messing with our elections in its own self-interest. It wants us to choose Town Board members who will let Seneca Meadows stay here for decades more and grow even larger. It hides its identity while playing on fear.
“Those glossy mailings provide precious little information about Seneca Falls, our budget and taxes, or even about the two Republican candidates they advocate for,” Weil continued, “but even if those two candidates did not know about the mailing in advance, they will certainly owe a big debt to Waste Connections and Seneca Meadows. Politicians and voters alike should decide what is good for Seneca Falls, not for a big multinational corporation, and we should resist the power of money in politics.”
Sinicropi said he has not been in touch with anyone associated with Responsible Solutions for New York.
“I have never spoken to them or requested their help in my campaign,” he said. “I assume they are an independent (political action committee) of some kind. ... On my mailer and letters, both state that I support all businesses in the town of Seneca Falls and do not discriminate against any business based on their product produced or services they may supply to the community at large or to a geographical region.”
Avery said all of his contributions and expenses have been reported to the state Board of Elections, adding that the Waste Connections PAC has no such accountability.
“The public has a right to known how money is being spent to influence their vote, and it just isn’t possible through Responsible Solutions for New York,” he said. “It should come as no surprise to anyone that Waste Connections has made an extraordinary amount of money available to campaign for candidates that support Seneca Meadows. It saddens me, though, how much it takes to run a campaign when our opponents have that kind of backing. It certainly makes any individual think twice before committing to run for office.
“My campaign is pretty well-financed, but pales in comparison to the funding at the disposal of the Republican candidates. All of my support has come from local individuals, except $500 that came from the Seneca County Democratic Committee.”
DeLelys said the amount of money being spent by Waste Connections and Seneca Meadows on the election “makes me sick,” calling Responsible Solutions for New York’s mailers “false and inflammatory.”
“In 2019, the same PAC spent $90,000 to get Mike Ferrara elected. That’s $150,000 in the last two elections,” DeLelys said. “That kind of money has no business in a local election. This egregious act of bias and influence on our citizens is outrageous. The people should be outraged as well.
“SMI is using money, fear and propaganda to influence this election for their own benefit. This makes it hard for the average person running for office and is completely disrespectful and insulting to Seneca Falls residents.”
A group called Responsible Solutions for Seneca Falls has sent out mailers showing how the town can thrive and succeed without landfill revenue or large tax increases. While having almost the same name as Responsible Solutions for New York, the local group is critical of the environmental impacts the landfill has on the community.
Five years ago, the board approved Local Law 3-2016, which prohibits any new solid-waste-disposal facilities from being built in the town and requires Seneca Meadows to close by the end of 2025. The landfill is challenging the legislation in court, and has applied for a permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to expand into a 50-acre in-fill area of the old Tantalo portion of the landfill. If approved, it would extend the life of the landfill by 15 years.
The DEC has not yet declared the application complete, a designation required before public meetings are scheduled.