WATERLOO — Nothing gets the Seneca County Board of Supervisors more riled up than the ongoing conflicts with the Cayuga Indian Nation.
That was the case again Tuesday.
The Indian Affairs Committee and the full board passed two motions and discussed the possibility of a motorcade, picketing or other type of protest of the Cayugas over their stance on sales and property tax payments.
Bradford Jones, former Seneca Falls mayor and a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee to the board’s Indian Affairs Committee, cited the Cayugas’ recent purchase of nearly 100 more acres of land in Seneca Falls in two separate sales.
One is 98.8 acres on Farron Road. The other is .8 acres on Spruce Lane in the village. That brings the Cayugas’ total land holdings in Seneca County to 1,098 acres, almost all of it in Seneca Falls.
“If you look on a map, you see they now own most of Farron Road right to the state park. I fear for those on Route 89,’’ Jones said, adding that the Cayugas can control water service by preventing lines running through their land. “I say the sky is falling. Where are our state and federal representatives? What is the school district doing to respond to this challenge?”
“This acquisition of over a thousand acres of land seems to have happened overnight, and we let it happen. I really worry for the town of Seneca Falls and Seneca County. There is no good news for us,’’ he said.
County Attorney Frank Fisher said the assumption is that the federal government will grant the Cayugas’ application to put 129 acres of their land into tax-exempt federal trust.
He said when and if that happens, lawyers for Seneca and Cayuga counties are poised to file an injunction to overturn the decision, the opening salvo in a federal court fight that may end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
That didn’t mollify Jones. He said the Seneca Falls school district is putting up an $18 million capital bond for school improvements.
“In 12 to 24 months, the way things are going, there will be 10 percent of the property off the tax rolls,’’ he said.
“Why aren’t the county, town and school district meeting together often with this committee to come up with a plan of opposition?’’ Jones said. “Maybe it’s time to go to the streets. They are winning everything, and people are frustrated. They have a plan that they work on all day, every day, and we don’t.”
He said Cayuga leader Clint Halftown has said several times that the tribe’s goal is to acquire the 64,015 acres it sought in a land claim filed in 1980. That claim was rejected by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan in 2003 because it was filed too late.
The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.
Several board members expressed frustration with the lack of response to letters appealing for help sent to U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Rep. Michael Arcuri, State Sen. Michael Nozzolio and Assemblyman Brian Kolb. They said only Kolb has responded.
Board chairman LaVerne “Chuck’’ Lafler, R-Seneca Falls, said the disagreement is over issues, not people.
“We’ve got to make our case in the court. If we make it personal, things can go bad fast,’’ Lafler said.
But several suggested another motorcade protest, picketing the Cayugas’ businesses or some other visible public protest to draw attention to what is happening.
“We need to keep putting pressure on our state and federal lawmakers to work for us,’’ said Cynthia Lorenzetti, D-Fayette.
“People should know who did not respond to our letters,’’ added Lee Davidson, R-Lodi.
“It seems like the state is willing to sacrifice Seneca and Cayuga counties to get the Cayugas off their backs. They’re throwing us under the bus instead,’’ said David Kaiser, R-Romulus.
Lorenzetti said she was angered by comments made in a recent news story by a Cayuga Nation member now living in Seneca Falls who sends her two children to local schools.
The mother said she is inquiring about teaching Cayuga culture and language and flying the Cayuga flag at school.
Lorenzetti proposed a motion that received unanimous committee and full board approval. It urges all towns, villages and school districts “to not set any precedents or be dictated to by any ethnic groups or organizations as to how to govern or educate the people.’’
“I find it ironic that tribal members refuse to pay taxes, yet benefit from the system and its services, yet claim sovereignty,’’ said Robert Shipley, R-Waterloo.
Shipley said he is trying to contact 24th District Congressman-elect Richard Hanna to meet with the board and discuss his opinions on Indian issues.
Former board member David Dresser of Ovid gave the board copies of his 14-page comment to the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the Final Environmental Impact Statement in the Cayugas’ trust application.
He said there are “many, many inconsistencies’’ in the report, along with many conclusions that he strongly disagrees with.
The board also voted unanimously to approve a motion supporting an effort to override Gov. David Paterson’s veto of the Magee-Klein bill.
That bill would remove the authority given to the governor to enter into unilateral agreements with Indian tribes. Paterson vetoed that bill July 22 and state lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly are attempting to override that veto.
Tribe buys more land
by FINGER LAKES TIMES STAFF
The Cayuga Indian Nation has purchased two more parcels of land in Seneca Falls, bringing the tribe’s total holdings in Seneca County to 1,098.9 acres.
In deed transfers recorded Nov. 19, the Cayugas acquired 98.8 acres, including a house, at 2615 Farron Road, from the estate of the late Chester Marshall.
The tribe paid $350,000 for the property, which is assessed at $100,500.
The second purchase was eight-tenths of an acre at 5 Spruce Lane, including a house, in the village of Seneca Falls. It was bought from Madeline Russo for $130,000. The property was assessed at $108,600.
Since 2003, the Cayugas have purchased 43 parcels in Seneca County; 40 are in Seneca Falls and three are in Varick.
The assessed value of the land they have bought was $4,759,300. The Cayugas have paid $7,798,108 for the parcels.
The Cayugas also own 243.9 acres in Cayuga County, mostly in the Union Springs area. They have paid $3.6 million for properties assessed at $4.08 million.
Their purchases include gas stations, convenience stores, a campground, a car wash, a produce stand, an ice cream stand, a vacant restaurant, 19 houses and vacant land.