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FLX Politics: Seneca Falls community forum primer

The Seneca Falls Town Board will hold its second community forum on Wednesday.An idea conceptualized by Seneca Falls Town Supervisor Greg Lazzaro, the event will give the community another opportunity to voice their concerns about any issues relevant to residents. Those concerns will be heard by the Town Board, and if anything like the last forum — will provide an opportunity for board members to address those concerns.For the Seneca Falls Town Board the community forum is about addressing concerns. It’s something that this Town Board has had to spend a lot of time doing, over the past several months. Four of the board members took office in January, or after, with just one member carrying over from the last administration.The last forum held at the Seneca Falls Community Center featured a lot of debate around the Seneca Meadows Landfill. Other items like the heroin epidemic, the Seneca Falls Police Department, rental units and housing in Seneca Falls, as well as a water-related issue on the Noble Road were discussed at significantly shorter length.Those who did discuss the landfill asked questions, some of which were addressed directly by Seneca Meadows District Manager Kyle Black, and made suggestions for the Town Board to consider. Alternatives to landfilling were suggested, and more community engagement was discussed to ensure that the environment was considered.Since then, a local law was proposed and tabled, which will undoubtedly be a major item of discussion at Wednesday’s forum. In addition to that, the appointed members of the Seneca Falls Town Board have had more time to familiarize themselves with their recently accepted roles in Seneca Falls. Members of the community have continued to call for implementation of Local Law #7.While the landfilling issue is undoubtedly an important one, there are a number of other issues impacting the Town of Seneca Falls, which should be discussed. As stated, some of these other issues were discussed at the last community forum, but the landfill debate took center stage. Here are some of the questions we’ve been hearing from residents, business owners, and those visiting Seneca Falls since the last community forum was held:What is being done to address the growing number of rental properties in Seneca Falls?This is an issue that has become increasingly debated throughout the Finger Lakes, as the tourism industry continues to bring larger numbers of visitors each year. While lakefront rental properties were discussed at the last community forum, rental properties as a whole are on the increase in Seneca Falls. Like a problem seen in Geneva, when there is a growing number of short-term and long-term rental units, issues arise in neighborhoods, which were previously filled with long-term, family-owned homes.Rental properties are not bad. However, stern enforcement of standards throughout the community should be maintained, or at the very least — discussed — to ensure the long-term viability of Seneca Falls. Property values are frequently discussed as it pertains to the Seneca Meadows Landfill. However, the damage improperly maintained rental units can do to property values is also an incredibly important issue for those living, visiting, and working in Seneca Falls.Will the Town of Seneca Falls host a community forum on the heroin epidemic in the coming months?Other communities throughout the region have held forums on this very issue. Educating the community is incredibly important on this matter. The face of addiction has changed dramatically over the last several decades, and communities like Seneca Falls are particularly hard hit by addiction. Fighting addiction can be expensive. Not just for the community itself, but for the law enforcement agencies left dealing with the problem directly. It’s an expensive problem that the Seneca County Board of Supervisors have discussed multiple times with other county officials. It’s time for Seneca Falls to look at addressing the problem more directly, as well through community engagement.What is the status of the Seneca Falls Municipal Building?There has been discussion about how much the structure is going to cost when all is said and done. How much is the structure going to cost? Will it exceed the original budget? What happens if it does? Does the Town have the funds to cover overruns in the expense column on this project? There are far more questions than answers on this subject, and it should be talked about at the community forum since it is one of the largest issues looming, which could impact property taxes in the long-term.What is the Town of Seneca Falls doing with unused properties?The former Seneca Falls Village Hall located by Van Cleef Lake is just one property in the Town of Seneca Falls that has been discussed at length about a future use. Properties like this one were discussed at length by Supervisor Greg Lazzaro while he was campaigning, but with the number of other quickly-evolving issues that have come up — limited time for discussion on this one has been possible. It is time for the Seneca Falls Town Board to begin the process of acting on zombie properties owned by the Town. If they can be repurposed, or if they are being actively used for something like storage now, it should be made clear, so that the public isn’t led to believe that the Town is simply sitting on this issue, saving it for another time. If shopping these properties is the plan, then moving toward aggressively finding a buyer is a must.What is being done to aggressively market and develop Seneca Falls?As the del Lago Resort & Casino nears opening in February of 2017 — it becomes even more paramount that Seneca Falls poises itself to collect the influx of traffic that will undoubtedly be coming its way. Will every person who visits the casino be coming to Seneca Falls?No, but the sheer increase in traffic volume throughout the region when del Lago opens will create demand that hasn’t been realized or prepared for in the Town. As construction ramps up on State Routes 414, 318, and 5&20 to handle that increased traffic load — Seneca Falls should be preparing for that growth. More importantly, the Town of Seneca Falls should be looking at ideas to foster that growth throughout the community. What other infrastructure issues exist that need to be addressed in Seneca Falls?This is an economic question as much as it is a theoretical one. About five years ago the Cayuga Street project, which took multiple years to complete, involved updating water and sewer infrastructure — on top of updating a roadway that has become increasingly traveled over the years.There are a number of roads, neighborhoods, and portions of Seneca Falls, which are likely in need of updating. Some of those updates might be urgent, others might not be as urgent — but is the Town even looking at what issues on the infrastructure side are looming a few years down the road?The Town just went through a major expense — to the tune of $3 million to make the two water towers in Seneca Falls current. That is a painful reminder of how expensive, crucial and problematic these issues can be if left untouched.What is the financial plan for the next decade?Does a long-term plan exist? At some point the landfill will close and millions of dollars annually will disappear. The exact number can be debated, but even if it’s slightly less than $1 million — the loss of that income will undoubtedly hurt the bottom line of Seneca Falls’ budget.Supervisor Lazzaro has instituted a 15 percent cut at the department level in the Town, but will that be enough to account for growing expenses, an eventual end in landfill revenue, and an aging infrastructure?If not, who will be left holding that bill in a decade?The issues in a community like Seneca Falls aren’t necessarily unique. They encompass many of the same issues residents face in other communities of similar size. However, the solutions discussed and implemented today have an impact on the dialogue tomorrow. Even if solving these problems takes years, the very first step is addressing them.FingerLakes1.com will have complete coverage of the community forum on Wednesday, including a replay of the forum Thursday morning. Check out the last community forum held in Seneca Falls, which was held in April in the video player below.If you plan to attend…What: Seneca Falls Community ForumWhere: Seneca Falls Rec Center, at 35 Water Street, in Seneca Falls.When: Begins at 6:30 pm

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