It has been four years since any political seat in the village of Baldwinsville has been contested – this year there are four candidates vying for three trustee seats and two candidates vying for one justice seat.
Incumbents Mark Wilder and Dick Clarke, as well as former village Trustee Rick Presley, who retired from the position in 2009, are on the ballot, in addition to new comer Mike Shepard. Trustee Carrie Weaver will not seek a third term.
Village Justice Elijah Huling Jr. is being contested by justice candidate John Murphy, Jr.
The mayor’s seat is also on the ballot, but incumbent Joseph Saraceni is not being contested.
This year, candidates for trustees’ seats and the mayor’s seat will run for three-year terms, while village justice candidates will run for four years.
The election will be held Tuesday March 15 and polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. at Village Hall, 16 West Genesee St. in Baldwinsville.
The Messenger recently caught up with Mayor Joseph Saraceni to get some insight into his views for the future of Baldwinsville. His responses are featured below:
Mayoral Candidate, running unopposed
Residency: Aside from three years living in Washington, DC – 37 years
Community Involvement: Baldwinsville is an extremely active community with a number of non-profit organizations and community events. I enjoyed helping to plan and promote a number of events including the spring and fall carp tournaments, The B’ville Big Chill, Blessing of the Fleet and the Children’s Fishing Derby in Mercer Park. I have served as Chair of the Baldwinsville Oktoberfest Committee for the past three years. I am a member of the Onondaga County Mayors Association and represent the Association on the Onondaga County Sustainable Development Plan Steering Committee.
What does the village mean to you?
Baldwinsville means many things to me. It’s the place where I grew up and learned many of life’s lessons. Throughout my formative years I was surrounded by people who took the time to teach me the value of living in a village. Baldwinsville provided a safe environment and fostered a strong sense of community that I appreciate even more now as I am raising my own family. I appreciate Baldwinsville’s rich history, as well as the unique role that I believe unique places like Baldwinsville will play in helping to revitalize the Central New York community. As mayor, I have had the opportunity to see how small local governments can serve as a mechanism for local residents to collectively have a positive impact on the communities in which they live.
What have you accomplished since becoming mayor?
The Central New York region has faced a number of challenges in recent years, and the out-migration of people and jobs are at the top of the list. Yet, I believe that our population centers including the village of Baldwinsville, will be key to the long-term vitality of our entire region. As a village community and as a part of the larger Central New York community, I believe it is imperative that we continue to leverage our unique assets – our waterfront properties, our walkable business district and neighborhoods, our strong school system, our public amenities, and our service organizations – to continue to improve the quality of life for our residents and create new opportunities for revitalization and transformation. I originally ran for mayor four years ago because I was committed to being a part of Baldwinsville’s continued transformation. I am very proud of what we have been able to accomplish over the last four years.
We have utilized information from our business corridor master plan to modify our codes in order to foster redevelopment in downtown and to encourage development that reflects our efforts to improve aesthetics, pedestrian safety and economic vitality. There are several key initiatives underway that will build upon the village’s continued transformation. Trustee Mark Wilder continues to impress me as he focuses on the village-owned waterfront property on Lock Street. It holds a tremendous amount of potential for redevelopment, and for the past year we have been preparing to bring this vacant property to market. With his continued efforts, we will see this completed very soon. The abandoned Harrington Firehouse was removed, and designs have been completed to redevelop the lot into a beautiful, pedestrian-friendly, public space with organized parking for our downtown businesses. The first phase of the project will be completed by the end of July.
We have focused intensely on reducing the cost of village services. We merged the position of superintendent of public works with engineering to saving the village residents more than $255,000 over the last three years. We were able to overcome a tremendous challenge when the county adjusted our previous tax revenue sharing formula that resulted in a $1.1 million loss in revenue for the village. This year, department heads presented budgets limited to meeting immediate needs, and we reduced spending by over $300,000 while keeping key services intact. I applaud the hard work by all village employees to identify strategies to reduce expenses. In recognition of the vital economic and cultural contribution that the village makes to our region, the county legislature agreed to award the village an infrastructure grant each year for the next 10 years.
Recognizing that the sidewalks throughout the village constitute a critical component of the overall transportation system in the village, we established a program to improve the decaying walkways with the goal of improving pedestrian safety while encouraging pedestrian access to downtown. To date we have repaired or replaced 4.5 miles of sidewalks, including the construction of a new sidewalk connecting Chaucer Circle with Smokey Hollow that allows residents safe access to downtown.
The village has worked closely with the Baldwinsville Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Agency to facilitate events that have showcased our community not only across New York state, but nationally and internationally as well. For example, events like the Carp Tournament have attracted international anglers to Baldwinsville, and Baldwinsville was even featured on the cover of prominent fishing magazine in Japan.
What do you hope to accomplish within the next three years?
Moving forward, we will focus on protecting the village water supply by revisiting our wellhead protection program. We will continue to recruit businesses and developers to invest in Lock Street, Tri-County Mall and the Smokey Hollow commercial area. We will add lights along the Chaucer Circle sidewalk. We will complete the renovation of Village Square. We will continue with the popular sidewalk replacement program. With a recently awarded Community Development Grant, a sidewalk will run along Meigs Road and provide a safe pedestrian connection for the residents living in that area. In addition, we plan to establish a committee to explore green initiatives for the village to reduce energy costs utilizing NYSERDA grants to improve energy efficiency, reduce waste and integrate renewable energy technologies such as solar panels at our facilities.
Decreased revenues, reduction/elimination of sales tax money, an already over-burdened taxpayer base – For future budgets, how do you propose getting village spending in line with revenues?
We will continue to explore new initiatives with the surrounding towns and with our School District for shared service agreements and cost cutting measures. Shared service agreements are the key to reducing the cost of all local governments. For example, we just signed an intergovernmental agreement with the Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District which, combined with other shared service agreements, will save us tens of thousands of dollars this year. Trustee candidate Mike Shepard will bring a focus toward additional shared services in an effort to minimizing the future tax burden on village residents.
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