Sees continued growth, opportunity for residents
– By Josh Durso
Geneva City Supervisor Lou Guard believes Ontario County is ‘healthy’, but don’t take that assessment as complacency.
Guard talked about the progress and growth in Ontario, and the opportunities county government still has in front of it. “It’s one of the growing counties in in upstate New York, which is exciting,” he said. “I think it’s it’s actually a quite vibrant place. You know, we have all the same challenges that other counties do in terms of these unfunded state mandates, but it’s a good place.”
He says that no matter your party affiliation, unfunded mandates are a challenge in county government. Despite fiscal pressures passed down from Albany, Guard sees county employees working hard each day to make sure business continues. “I think things like bail reform, raise the age, and things like that make it challenging. It’s not just Ontario County dealing with that though,” he added. “We have to solve for it.”
The Supervisor says credit goes to County staff for taking an all-hands on deck approach to problem solving. “I give a lot of credit to the department heads, the staff at the divisional level, and the real tough kind of precinct work that they have to do,” Guard continued. “Managing their budgets, being efficient, and of course, cost effective in order to best serve the rest of the county is hard work. And I think they do a great job.”
Guard has been an outspoken advocate on behalf of the environment in the Finger Lakes. Especially as it pertains to his work on the Ontario County Landfill issue, which continues to be one of the most-debated across the board.
He says that like all of the issues he approaches – he tries to use context to stay at the ‘30,000-ft level’. It helps him work through his role as supervisor, thinking about the wards he serves in the city of Geneva, but the entire community as well.
“You know I think we’ve got a lot going for us in Ontario County,” he said. “In terms of natural beauty: Seneca Lake, Canandaigua Lake or the wineries and restaurants, and quality of life all make this place great.”
While part of Ontario County has been growing faster than the rest – Guard says that’s part of the attraction to it. “Different strokes for different folks,” he quipped. “Not to be overly-simplistic but that’s another great things about the County.” He says the diversity offered by rural communities, growing commercial spaces, and traditional urban centers – like Geneva and Canandaigua – offer a nice range of opportunities.
It hasn’t all been good news, though, for Geneva and Ontario County, and Supervisor Guard says he’s aware of that. He shared his disappointment about the news that Cheribundi would not be sticking around, and instead opted to move to Michigan.
While company officials said they were faced with a stark choice, Guard says he won’t be supporting the business anytime soon. “I think to call it a bummer is an understatement,” he said. “Suffice it to say, I’m not going to be buying any Cheribundi anytime soon for my post-workout drinks. It’s terrible.”
“You know, I think they came and got these perks and took advantage of them and now they’re out of here,” Guard added. “Now having said that, that is the economy that we live in, sadly. That’s kind of the state of things.”
He says that while the company made good on all loans and benefits it acquired – seeing a company like Cheribundi go still stings. In the future, he hopes that economic development arrangements – whether they’re a PILOT or otherwise – be decided on a truly case-by-case basis. “I don’t particularly believe in just handing tax dollars out to a private company,” Guard added. “I really think these things need to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.”
At the end of the day, Guard says he remains focused on all of the issues impacting taxpayers in Ontario County. “If you have a question – reach out,” he added. “I’ve had a great experience working on the Board of Supervisors and think we can continue raising all boats, so to speak, around Ontario.”
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