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Future of former Army Depot at stake on Tuesday

It all could be decided in one night.On Tuesday, February 9th, the Seneca County Board of Supervisors will vote on a resolution created by Supervisor Stephen Churchill. The resolution, which would ask the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency to sell the Seneca Army Depot to Seneca County, or simply transition ownership over in a non-cash deal is set to be voted on in just a few days.Seneca County Supervisors Stephen Churchill and Paul Kronewetter along with Dennis Money, the President of Seneca White Deer, were guests on Inside the FLX with Josh Durso on FingerLakes1.TV on Thursday afternoon where they discussed the future of the Depot. Churchill pointed out that the former Depot is at a “crucial juncture,” both for the future of the site, as well as the future of the white deer. The United States Army recently finished their cleanup of the former Depot site, which moved the IDA into a period of receiving bids for all, or parts of the property. The bidding will close on February 29th but Seneca County taking ownership of the property would circumvent the bidding process, which has purportedly received 57 bids. Legal teams with Seneca County, as well as the Seneca County IDA are evaluating whether a bid must be accepted after it is opened because many members of the IDA board argue that no bid must be accepted.Churchill told FingerLakes1.com that, “The IDA wants to divest themselves, but Seneca County would like to request that the IDA turn the property over for the sole purpose of creating a thorough plan for the Depot.”A petition at Change.org has nearly 70,000 signatures in support of the white deer of Seneca County, and asking that the herd be preserved for future generations. Preserving the deer within the confines of the Seneca Army Depot has become a primary objective for many organizations and local businesses. Donations, aid, and support have all been pouring in and now the Seneca White Deer organization, led by President Dennis Money are ready to act. Churchill said, “The public needs to have a bid packet submitted on their behalf. There is a tremendous amount of support. Hundreds of emails in favor of, just two or three against.” There are competing plans, though, which could work in harmony, according to Churchill and Kronenwetter. Supervisor Bob Hayssen, who will not be present at next Tuesday’s meeting and unable to vote for, or against, the resolution — issued an email to the Seneca County IDA, which FingerLakes1.com was able to obtain. The letter from Hayssen read in part:The Varick Town Board again last night reiterated their interest in the land in Varick at the Depot. It is surplus property and Home Rule should make Varick the first in line to acquire ownership of the property. The Town Board unanimously supports the efforts of Dennis Money and wants to make sure that he becomes the owner of at least 2,000 acres for an eco-tourism area in Varick.One concern, though, which Hayssen, Churchill and Kronenwetter have highlighted, is that of securing the property. Hayssen said in his letter to the IDA that the Varick Town Board “knows that there are liability issues, but working together we can limit the risk and in the end we can all become winners.”Another concern has been in regard to the cost, which purchasing or acquiring the property would bring with it. However, Churchill, Hayssen, and Kronenwetter, have assured residents that no cost would be associated with Seneca County taking on the former Depot.Hayssen closed his letter to the IDA by asking for a chance at developing something for those who want to preserve the white deer at the Depot site. “Please give Varick, Dennis and the believers a chance,” his letter closed.Kronenwetter pointed to rural Pennsylvania where elk have become a major player in the eco-tourism in the northern parts of the state. “The business plans match up,” Kronenwetter said of a comparison to Pennsylvania. “You could take out the word ‘elk’ and insert the words ‘white deer’ and move forward,” he said, speaking to the overall economic impact it would have on the region. That aspect has become a major sticking point for some county residents who believe that an increase in property taxes would accompany a transition of ownership. Here though, is where Kronenwetter says the biggest misconception lies. He spoke on Inside the FLX at length regarding his challenges over 20 years ago when he was pushing to allow for a turning lane at the Waterloo Premium Outlets. While this is something that few people would think about today, it was a hot-button issue then, with many sitting board members arguing that the benefit would be slim — “when the stripmall went under in a couple years.” Kronenwetter said, “It’s been a cash cow ever since, and still remains one of the biggest drivers of sales tax in the entire county.”The trio points out that there is still time to act. Churchill and Kronenwetter will be handing out flyers at the Waterloo Tops grocery store on Saturday. Those who have questions are encouraged to come out and ask the two supervisors directly. They also are encouraging residents to let their supervisors know how they feel about the Army Depot. Residents can weigh in on the matter by sending the Seneca County Board of Supervisors an email here. Residents can also call (315) 539-1700 to leave a message for the entire board.The Seneca County Board of Supervisors will meet this coming Tuesday at 6 pm in the Seneca County Office Building at 1 DiPronio Dr.

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