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Supervisors go with Hunt Engineers after contentious public comment during BOS meeting

Seneca Falls took center stage during the public comment period of the Seneca County Board of Supervisors meeting held on Tuesday.

The supervisors considered a pair of resolutions in committee last month, which came before the full-board on Tuesday to determine who would provide engineering services for Seneca County. An infiltration and inflow study for Seneca County’s two sewer districts had been debated for months among the supervisors, but came to a head at the meeting this week.

The supervisors had a choice: Utilize Hunt Engineering of Malvern, Pennsylvania, who was listed on the resolution for a vote on Tuesday; or go with Barton & Loguidice Engineers, based out of Liverpool.

The supervisors would ultimately approve the resolutions as written, granting Hunt Engineers the work. The $72,00 study is part of a broader question as to whether ‘consolidation’ is the right path forward for those two sewer districts and wastewater treatment facilities.

Allison Stokes, who owns a home in Seneca Falls, addressed the board during public comment – supporting the resolution. “Based on my years of activist experience in Seneca Falls, I speak to urge the Board of Supervisors not to vote for Barton and Loguidice to do this work,” she said.

“This large, wealthy firm based in Syracuse has been doing Seneca Falls’ town engineering project work — with no competition – for years,” Stokes continued. “Barton and Loguidice has profited greatly from our Town Board’s decision not to give serious consideration to other firms interested in town engineering business.”

Like many residents, Stokes has been vocal in her criticism of the Town’s handling of engineering services. “In my opinion, and that of others citizens, Barton and Loguidice has not worked in the best interest of Seneca Falls, but rather has focused on profiting from millions of dollars of landfill money coming to our town,” she continued.

Barton & Loguidice did not have a representative at Tuesday’s meeting.

Stokes noted that she, along with many other residents, urged the New York State Comptroller’s Office to perform a ‘special audit’ of the Town’s finances. “After receiving many complaints, the Comptroller finally decided to do an investigation. The special audit began on Election Day in November 2017, and finished up many months later, last summer,” she continued.

Supervisor Greg Lazzaro (R-Seneca Falls) took issue with that claim – asserting that the audit was conducted at His and Deputy Supervisor Lou Ferrara’s request.

Supervisor Lazzaro also took issue with Stokes continuing to speak. He requested that Board Chairman Bob Shipley (R-Waterloo) ask her to leave the podium, since the issues she was speaking about were only relative to Seneca Falls.

Chairman Shipley disagreed. “I think we’d like to hear what she has to say,” he said in response. Supervisor Lazzaro also asserted that Stokes went over her 5-minute limit. Shipley again disagreed, allowing her to continue.

Stokes spent the next two minutes outlining the ‘issues’ frequently discussed at Seneca Falls Town Board meetings.

One project that Barton & Loguidice oversaw was the Seneca Falls Municipal Building project, which Stokes called a ‘disaster’ during her remarks. “It is totally inadequate. There is not enough storage space, so important records must be housed off-site. Seating capacity for Town Board meetings in the courtroom is limited because a door in the room cannot be used. Because there is no space for large public meetings, controversial board meetings and public hearings must be held at the Community Center,” Stokes concluded.

Furthermore, she cited an audit findings report by the State Comptrollers Office, which specified serious management and oversight issues with the planning and building process.

“The auditors found that ‘The actual costs to construct the new Town Hall were not transparent to the Board and the Public.'” Stokes recounted from the Comptroller’s report. “They found the actual project costs were approximately $4.5 million, or $2 million more than was initially approved from the capital reserve fund.”

Adding fuel to the fire, and making the session at the County Office Building feel more like a Seneca Falls Town Board meeting – was the appearance and appeal made by Seneca Falls Town Attorney David Lee Foster.

While it wasn’t completely clear why Foster was addressing the board – he leveled several complaints against his portrayal in local media. He even went as far as to claim Stokes referred to him as “The Face of Corruption.”

It’s a claim that Stokes says has no merit.

“The Town Attorney’s accusation was totally false and unjust. I never did, and never would, say such a thing,” she said of the claim. No editorials published under Stokes’ byline since Foster’s hiring in Seneca Falls featured the language he suggested she used.

Foster would wrap up his remarks, voicing support for Barton & Loguidice. It wouldn’t sway the Board, though.

The supervisors voted nearly-unanimously to approve the resolutions granting I&I work to Hunt Engineers. Supervisor Lazzaro was the only ‘nay’ vote.

Reporting in this story by News Director Josh Durso. He hosts a pair of podcasts on FingerLakes1.com. Check out Inside the FLX and Sunday Conversation each week on FingerLakes1.com.  Email tips and leads to josh@fingerlakes1.com.

 

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