It’s been an active election cycle in Seneca Falls, where a perfect storm of events has resulted in a lot of questions heading into Tuesday’s day at the ballot box.
Earlier this week, Town Councilor David DeLelys, who is up for re-election on Tuesday, issued a statement questioning Supervisor Greg Lazzaro’s budget proposal, which requested a 10 percent cut from department heads — but doubled the general fund tax levy for 2018.
That budget, which still has to be voted on by the Town Board, was the second item that prompted a response from the other Democrat running for a seat on Town Board.
Douglas Avery, a retired Mynderse Academy teacher, is dipping his toes in politics to have a positive impact, he says. Now though, he’s growing more concerned about some of the things taking place in Seneca Falls.
“There have been two recent developments in Seneca Falls that warrant close inspection,” he explained. Avery says that the issues, as well as the way they’re being handled by current Town leadership, makes him question the caliber of current representation.
The first item of concern, according to Avery, is the resignation letter, which was anonymously submitted to FingerLakes1.com. In a special appearance on Inside the FLX on Wednesday, Deputy Supervisor Lou Ferrara accused another, nameless board member of giving that letter to the press. While FingerLakes1.com received the letter anonymously, it cannot confirm the original source, which is why the letter was identified as anonymous.
Avery said the letter is clear indication that she’s receiving instructions from above that are ‘inappropriate’. “In her letter, Ms. Provencher cites ‘conflicts of interest, procedural issues, extraneous unexplained assignments, unethical practices, failed communication, and direct negligence of departmental procedures and town code’ as reasons for her resignation,” Avery recounted. “Clearly, she is receiving instructions from above that, in her professional opinion, are inappropriate.”
He says the letter is reflective of a heavy-handed management style in Seneca Falls. Avery noted that it’s the same style leadership that is ‘witnessed’ at monthly Town Board meetings. “Proper procedure, fairness, mutual respect, and civility are sacrificed in the interest of secrecy and backroom politics,” added Avery.
Supervisor Lazzaro has contended throughout his term that following procedure has been a priority. In a prior conversation with FingerLakes1.com Lazzaro said that he makes every attempt possible to work with board members and residents from all sides of the political spectrum.
The second concern expressed by Avery involves the 2018 budget, which was subject to scrutiny from within the board earlier this week. “The figures, as given to the press by the Town Supervisor, simply don’t add up,” he said. “The plan is to anticipate $3 million in landfill revenue next year, as opposed to the $2.3 million in the current budget. Of that, $1 million will be set aside for infrastructure renovation and improvements.”
He says the result is $300,000 less is anticipated in landfill revenue for the general fund next year. This with the backdrop of a demand that 10 percent be cut from department budgets — doesn’t align with a 70 percent tax increase, according to Avery.
Traditional practice for establishing the budget, by holding workshops, has also been abandoned. Conflicting philosophies exist on how that procedure should be carried out.
On Wednesday, Ferrara said that the decision for board members to abandon the workshops was made to fall in line with other communities — large and small. “Boards aren’t supposed to handle that stuff,” he explained. Ferrara said they removed [the board] from situation to prevent the appearance of politicizing the budget, or budget process.
The execution of that decision, which was not done publicly, made some question the intent.
Avery said that the entire board should have been part of the process. “Midway through the process last month, Supervisor Lazzaro notified Vic Porretta and Dave DeLelys that the entire board would no longer be taking part,” he said.
DeLelys confirmed this in an appearance on Inside the FLX last week.
“It is probably no coincidence that the two board members who were left with the task both voted in favor of Local Law 3 last year, closing Seneca Meadows in 2025. The Supervisor is clearly hoping to pin the blame for a large tax increase on efforts to close Seneca Meadows,” Avery added.
He says any suggestion that the tax increase in 2018 is related to the 2025 closure of Seneca Meadows is ‘completely artificial’. “Their payments to the town should continue until that time, as there is no change to the terms of the Host Community Agreement,” he explained.
“Yes, our infrastructure needs work. Yes, we should put a large amount of our available resources into improvements and repairs, ensuring that we are in the best possible shape eight years from now. But, no, this huge tax increase is nothing but a ploy to stimulate taxpayers’ fears about the future,” he concluded.
Voters will elect two candidates of four available to represent them on the Town Board in Tuesday’s election. To see all of Seneca County’s contested races, and full-coverage click here.
Also, don’t forget to check out FingerLakes1.com’s EXCLUSIVE Election Night Live special coverage, which will begin at 8 pm on FingerLakes1.TV. Watch below or check it out on FL1 TV.