While the Seneca Meadows Landfill has once again taken center stage in an upcoming election in Seneca Falls – a number of important issues related to economic development, the opioid epidemic, public safety, and overall spending loom.
FingerLakes1.com reached out to candidates with questions, which were published without edits below. Each candidate was given equal opportunity (and time) to answer the survey via email.
Town and County supervisor candidates have been featured in a podcast series, which can be checked out by clicking here.
(1) Why are you running for Seneca Falls Town Council?
Churchill: First and foremost, I am concerned about the future of our Town. Our Town Government seems to have veered off course over the years and it is time for a course correction. We have great opportunities in Seneca Falls, always have, but as a community we have lost sight of what it is important. We are fortunate in that our History, Waterways, Industries and Small Businesses provide a great foundation on which we must build. With leadership that is willing to work together, listen to the community and respect each other we can make Seneca Falls a great place to live for the next 100 years. It is no secret that I support Local Law #3 and therefore understand that we must start work January 1st on a post-dump closure plan. The dump does not define our Town. It is the people, our downtown, our schools and our Families that define Seneca Falls and I know our Town will thrive long after the dump is closed.
Dyson: To try and make a difference, to help lower taxes and use of taxpayer money.
Gilroy: First, I had been attending Town Council Board meetings for three years and have watched quite a few shows, and felt that it had to be better than this. I could make it better with common sense, integrity, honesty, and ya ya all those other platitudes politicians use. But really I could. Second, the Landfill has to close and Local Law #3 has to stay in place, and we can’t rely opposition political parties to do the job. And we have to know what the town thinks. This election is pivotal to our path forward. Its time to stop the blackmailing Landfill Octopus that seems to reach into every aspect of life in Seneca Falls, pretending to be a good neighbor while suing the town and plotting to extend the life of the landfill forever, building on both sides of 414 and bringing in trash trains. What kind of town will we have left if they do. We will have lower taxes, but it won’t matter if it is a ghost town. Town citizens must tell us what they want, by the ballot box. We have to hold on to Local Law #3. Third, following the election of 2016, I became concerned with the health of our democracy and the complacency of our citizens. I decided to be a role model for my grandchildren. At 7l, I decided that I would step out of my comfort zone. I could learn about sewer lines and zoning and budgets. I could do it. And I can talk to people. Fourth, no one seems to talk about the poisons and toxins in our air now. Unseen hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and the leachate that we are processing through our Seneca Falls Water Treatment plant. We need a health watch and increased concern for rates of cancer, heart disease, neuro-tunnel birth defects, asthma, and respiratory illnesses. Also I notice trees dying and fewer birds. Our Seneca Meadows neighbor has reduced our taxes, but at what cost. We have to think about our babies and children. We have a lot of work to do to get this train back on track and working for the Town of Seneca Falls. We have so many good things here, and so many good people. We need a long range plan for finances and infrastructure repair. We need intense conversation with the people in order to work for the people of Seneca Falls.
Larsen: I chose to run for Town Council because I feel we have been failed by previous town board members by not responsibly lowering taxes, but raising them 60+ percent, and not fixing our aging infrastructure that will allow business growth. The town cannot keep putting the burden on the taxpayers to pick up the slack from irresponsible board members that put their own personal agenda before the hardworking people of the town. We need to restore integrity and common sense to our town and government.
(2) What are the top issues you’d like to see addressed if elected?
Churchill: Keeping Local Law #3 on the books and defending against whatever assaults Seneca Meadows may throw at us over the next several years is my top priority. The dump has forever damaged our environment. Clean air and water are our most precious resources and the dump will remain a threat to both for generations to come. I do not believe SMI has any plans on going quietly into the night but into the night they must go! Infrastructure in the form of Water, Sewer and Roads must always be a top priority. Our Town infrastructure has been neglected for years and I will work with the next Board to ensure that appropriate upgrades and repairs are performed. We must also put processes in place to maintain and prevent a repeat of the same costly issues going forward. Tourism in the Finger Lakes is growing every year and Seneca Falls has great opportunities to benefit from that tourism. We need to get the tourism engine in Seneca Falls firing on all cylinders. With a strong Town Board leadership, working in partnership with local businesses and organizations we will develop and implement plans that will grow our local tourism economy. We all want low taxes and there are only two ways to attain that goal; control spending and/or increase revenue. Growing tourism dollars is a sure-fire way to increase revenue and attract business.
Dyson: Taxes, spending, and bringing business back to Seneca Falls.
Gilroy: Holding the line on taxes. People seem to forget that the candidates pay taxes too. Getting out from under the weight of the Landfill means intense attention to our local budgets. Town utilities keep going up. If we have to reduce the services we have been dependent on., then we need have these discussions with the Town before taking actions.
Larsen: Infrastructure repairs, public safety, and economic development.
(3) A pair of recent mailers caused a lot of concern among residents:
– If you’re one of the candidates identified on the mailing – do you support what it says? Why?
Dyson: While I was never contacted or consulted on the flyers, I do support some of the issues mentioned – such as taxes being out of control, the opioid epidemic, and development business.
Larsen: Even though I do not thin it is right for someone to send out a mailer without permission or without the person even knowing where, or who the group is, I do support what it says. As assistant chief in the Seneca Falls Fire Department I have seen my fair share of opioid overdoses in this town and we need to get it under control. Public safety is a top priority for me and keeping our first responders properly funded is a necessity in our town. Every town, village, and city should have the same idea to foster an environment that creates jobs and preserves economic stability, control local spending, and holding the line on property taxes. We cannot keep raising taxes to cover senseless spending. A huge majority of people that live in Seneca Falls are on a fixed income and cannot afford to pay more and more each year.
– If you are not named on the mailing – where do you stand on it? And what concerns do you have with it?
Churchill: My candidacy was not represented by the mailer sent out by an anonymous Political Action Committee (PAC). We all know politics and particularly political campaigns generate a lot of ‘Noise’! As it turned out however, the PAC that sent the mailer was funded to the tune of 50 Thousand Dollars by the parent company of SMI, the Dump! That just goes to prove my earlier statement that SMI has no plans of going quietly. If anything, the mailer, sent in support of the Towns Republican Candidates, should be enough to get all those who support Local Law #3 to the poles on Nov. 5th and vote Avery, Gilroy and Churchill!
Gilroy: I was horrified but not surprised with the recent glossy mailing from Responsible Solutions for New York. I was not named in it, thank goodness. We have always known that Seneca Meadows directly funded campaigns of candidates, and possibly subsidized pivotal elections. We are no longer a sleepy, self-sufficient town. We are now Pac-bait. We have stock models posing as real people, and stock, generic election issues put forward. We should all be on guard to being “had”. There will be more to come on this Dark Money issue. Other Democrats and I are self-funding according to the rules and restrictions of Election Finance Law. Donations to campaigns are public record. Fundraising isn’t easy, but freedom isn’t easy either.
(4) What is your plan for infrastructure spending over the next 2-4 years?
Churchill: First off, we need to secure any and all Grants that will allow us to improve our infrastructure. Second, I agree with Doug Avery in that we use up to 75% of the dump revenues over the next few years to address infrastructure improvements.
Dyson: Apply for as many grants as possible for infrastructure improvements.
Gilroy: You have to remember that I am just another resident of Seneca Falls. I am not privy to all that goes on at the Town Hall. I am not currently on the Board. I know what I read. And it seems that lots of our sewer and water lines are fast deteriorating. And no one is happy without water, or with sewer overflow when it rains. And we have the leachate/414 sewer trail to figure out, plus repairs to our Water Treatment plant and its equipment. We need someone who is willing to work on these issues long term.
Larsen: We need to develop a 3-5 year plan based on revenue and increased expenses, we also need to reduce expenses without jeopardizing critical services such as water, sewer and public safety. The town should be aggressively seeking grants and other available resources that will help fix the aging infrastructure in this town and other priority items that will cost us in the long run. The town should be using the money from SMI for what it was intended for in the first place and that is keeping our taxes low! it seems to me that the current board spends money faster that they get it and we have nothing to show for it but failing sewer systems, broken water mains and crumbling streets and outrageous taxes.
(5) Can Seneca Falls afford and/or sustain a police department the size it is currently? What changes, if any, would you like to see over the next several years?
Churchill: Future Town budgets are very likely to require some cuts in spending. All departments may have to give so that the Town can remain fiscally sound. That is not a Steve Churchill decision, that’s just plain simple economics. Our Town can’t live beyond our means! That said, government is about allocating funds based on what the community deems important. A Police force exists to protect the community. In Seneca Falls we receive the protection of several Police Departments; the Seneca County Sheriff, State Police and the Seneca Falls PD. If the time comes when it’s either higher taxes or reduction in spending, then tough decision might have to be made. Just like the Town we as Families cannot live beyond our means so if higher taxes are not an option then yes, the Police Dept., through attrition, may experience a reduction in force.
Dyson: [No answer submitted]
Gilroy: I am in support of our local Police Department. We are living in a very violent age, and I am comfortable knowing that I have an officer within 5 minutes of a 911 call. I still have grandchildren in high school. We could have an active shooter incident. I rely on our school resource officer to have his/her ear to the ground so to speak. Can we do things better? Maybe. But we can work it out. We can have the conversation.
Larsen: As of right now there is nothing I would like to see changed at the PD. Chief Peenstra and Lieutenant Snyder are doing a great job with such a young police force. The Seneca Falls police department has been operating without landfill money since 2018 and is a huge asset to the town. You cannot put a price tag on the safety of our residents and its visitors. The Seneca Falls police department is 1 of 157 officially accredited agencies out of a total of 514 agencies throughout the state. Receiving accreditation from the state acknowledges the department’s commitment to the community they serve as well as reaching the gold standard in community policing. As a Member of the Seneca Falls fire department I have witnessed countless times that if not for the quick response and fast acting lifesaving actions from the Men and Women of the SFPD the outcome of what was already a bad situation could have been a lot worse! Many lives have been saved from opioid overdoses to Cardiac arrest. I hope that we can keep these Officers around for many years because this town would suffer greatly without them.
(6) What should the Town do with revenues from Seneca Meadows while the landfill remains open? If it will close, should cutting services be a priority to shield taxpayers from potential burden?
Churchill: Again, I agree with and support Doug Avery’s plan to allocate up to 75% of the SMI revenues for infrastructure improvements while setting aside a large portion of the balance in a reserve fund to be used post dump closure. Cutting services is not my priority although waste and inefficiencies need to be eliminated. The priority is to increase revenues and ensure that everyone is paying their fair share!
Dyson: We should start putting it away and saving it in an abatement account so we don’t put anymore burden on taxpayers. Should also perform a review of services for possible cutbacks, investigate shared services.
Gilroy: We have to create a tourist-attracting downtown. Any day you can see people wandering Fall Street with cameras, pointing to things. We need to be attractive to new businesses and we need to be listening to existing businesses for their creative energies. Business friendly. We have great festivals and we have a great historic hook that needs to be shamelessly exploited. It’s not your father’s Seneca Falls, with mom in the kitchen and dad with a lunch pail going to the foundry. We have to step into a new Seneca Falls. Clean and green Seneca Falls.
Larsen: [See answer to #4]
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