SENECA FALLS — The Mike Ferrara era as town supervisor begins Wednesday with a promise of “no sarcasm, no name-calling and a welcoming atmosphere” at Town Board meetings.
Ferrara, 62, was elected to a four-year term in November, defeating Town Board member Doug Avery by 82 votes.
In a Monday interview, Ferrara said he is reluctant to get into comparisons with the man he succeeds, fellow Republican Greg Lazzaro.
“As far as board meetings go, I plan to follow the same protocol in use the past four years. People can sign up to be placed on the agenda to speak by Thursday before our first Tuesday meeting, and I encourage them to speak for three to five minutes,” Ferrara said. “But I will not have a stopwatch. I will treat people with respect and kindness. I will listen and get back to people if we don’t have an answer at the moment.”
He said there “will be no sarcasm and no name-calling.”
“I want people to feel welcome and comfortable coming to a board meetings. I don’t want to get into heated debates,” Ferrara said.
He said he will have an open-door policy, being in his municipal building office most mornings. He said people can call for an appointment or stop in. “I’m pretty flexible at work and I envision an open privilege of the floor at meetings for people who don’t sign up in advance,” he said.
Ferrara said those attending meetings will not have to go through a metal detector and after January, there no longer will be a police officer present at meetings.
In his last few months in office, Lazzaro warned about the town’s ability to continue to pay for a town police department and for a full recreation program. Ferrara said he campaigned on not cutting critical services such as police, highway, water and sewer. He said a good recreation program is a great asset to the town.
“We need to work on a financial plan based on revenue and expenses for those services. The host agreement with the landfill provides us with just over $3 million a year. We’ll have that for at least five more years, so we need to allocate that to reduce the tax levy, partly to pay for infrastructure and partly for reserves,” Ferrara said. “We need to control expenses in preparation for the closing of the landfill and the loss of that money.”
Ferrara said his priorities for infrastructure projects in the coming years include constructing the new, larger sewer line from Route 318 along West Bayard Street to the wastewater treatment plant.
“I do not favor continuing on with an eminent domain process any longer to gain access to the Ludovico Sculpture Trail to run that sewer line under,” Ferrara said. “I have talked to the sculpture trail owner about buying the trail from her. She said she would consider it and if we can’t reach agreement, I’ll advocate Plan B, which is to run the sewer line along West Bayard Street, which is more costly and more disruptive than the trail.”
He also would prioritize a new equalization tank at the wastewater treatment plant, continue to re-line old sewer lines, and address the issue of the crumbling West Bayard Street culvert that has seen that busy street closed to traffic until recently.
“We’ve got to figure out who will pay for the culvert work. We’ve got it partially re-opened but we’re working with state legislators in dealing with the state on who pays,” Ferrara said.
The town needs to mount a vigorous defense of Local Law 3 of 2016, a law that would see the closure of Seneca Meadows Landfill by Dec. 31, 2025, Ferrara said. The landfill has filed a lawsuit challenging the local law, with arguments set for Jan. 21.
“While we wait for a decision, we need to have a solid waste plan. We need to look at the overall effects of closing the landfill in 2025 or whatever year it ends up closing. Right now, there is no plan for what happens after it closes,” he said.
He said the landfill will not dominate his agenda in his first term. He said there will be town board elections in 2021 and ‘23 that will determine which direction town residents want to go, acknowledging that if people elect opponents of Local Law 3, it could be rescinded again, which happened in 2017 before a new board reinstated it in 2018.
“The people need to know all the ramifications of closing, economic and environmental. Closing the landfill is not an environmental solution. We need to look at reducing waste, composting and recycling. Trucking it down the road is not a solution,” he said.
He said he predicts a good relationship with Seneca Meadows but said the company needs to be held more accountable for what’s going on at the site and doing a better job with odors.
“We need action, not words. I’ve met with them on a game plan. We need to resume auditing the landfill’s finances, which is part of the host benefit agreement. We also need to work with them as a major business in the community,” he said.
Ferrara said he plans to appoint incoming board member Dawn Dyson, the board’s only other Republican, as deputy supervisor.
“I’m looking forward to the Downtown Revitalization Initiative program. It’s a wonderful opportunity that will take a lot of work by everyone. I’m excited about the opportunity to put new projects in place. It’s a big win for the town and will have a major impact on our downtown,” Ferrara said.
Ferrara said he hopes to have a good relationship with the Cayuga Indian Nation, which is headquartered in the town. “I wish some better decisions were made thirty years ago. Things would be better without all the costly lawsuits,’” he said.
Ferrara also will be one of 14 members of the Seneca County Board of Supervisors. He said as a member of that board he will advocate for more inter-municipal agreements that result in cost efficiencies and shared services.
“I think we’ve got a great board. I’m not a real political person so I think we’ll do fine. We’ll have disagreements, but I think we’ll work together for what’s best for the people of Seneca Falls. I don’t see a lot of in-fighting, mudslinging or name calling,” he said.