More than 100 Cazenovia residents and local business owners spent the evening of Jan. 10 listening to area officials discuss the last 12 months in Central New York and outline their hopes for the upcoming year at the annual State of the Area Forum, hosted by the Greater Cazenovia Area Chamber of Commerce.
New York State Assemblyman Bill Magee, Senator David Valesky, Nelson Town Supervisor Roger Bradstreet, Cazenovia Central School District Superintendent Bob Dubik and Cazenovia Town Supervisor Ralph Monforte each delivered a speech to attendees. Cazenovia Village Mayor Kurt Wheeler was scheduled to speak as well, but was unable to attend, as he was busy at the Mohawk Valley Indoor Track Association Division I Championship where he coached the Cazenovia varsity girls indoor track team to a first-place finish.
The event was held from 6 to 8 p.m., in the 54Freedom Corporate Headquarters at 5 Ledyard Ave., formerly known as the Ridge Associates Building. Dave’s Diner supplied a special selection of hors d’oeuvres and desserts, while Empire Brewing Company and Owera Vineyards, both recent additions to the GCACC, supplied beverages. The event was so well attended, seating was available in three separate rooms equipped with speakers and television monitors.
Assemblyman Magee was the first to address the crowd. He told of his offices’ achievements over the past year, applauded the successes of area agri-businesses and described developing plans for Madison County. Magee said he hopes to see increased interest in agri-tourism throughout the area, stemming from the new cider-house at Critz Farms, Owera Vineyards’ award-winning wines and Empire Brewing Company, which is looking to open a microbrewery in Cazenovia this year.
“We’re trying to develop a ‘wine and beverage trail’ through Madison County,” Magee said. “This is a big thing other parts of the state have done, and hopefully we can do it here.”
Magee mentioned the $150,000 he was able to secure for the village of Cazenovia to put toward the replacement of the Clark Street bridge, and told of a new greenhouse and aquaculture center that will be constructed by Morrisville State College and Cazenovia-based Johnson Lumber Company.
In the coming year, Magee said he will look to provide more funding to area residents affected by cuts in state aid. “Through legislation, we hope to provide mandate relief for localities included but not limited to passage of the Medicaid Reform Bill, and help our schools in determining a more equitable distribution in school aid. Growing business and working to provide a business-friendly environment in New York will be the end goals in current legislative sessions,” he said.
Senator Valesky also spoke about the current legislature. He was happy to report on the state’s success in the last year and offer his positive outlook for “a new era of bi-partisan cooperation in Albany.” He reminded the audience of the Ethics Reform Bill he helped pass, the $10 billion budget gap the state was able to balance without raising taxes and his continued cooperation with Magee, a fellow Democrat.
Valesky said moving forward, he will also be concentrating on mandate relief for local governments and school districts that were affected by the tax cap of 2011. “The gap-elimination adjustment we’ve had to impose over the last couple of years has been particularly difficult on rural school districts in this area and across Upstate New York; we have to address that,” he said. “I think we have turned a corner in the state, and if we continue to work in a cooperative fashion, we will continue to see better days ahead.”
Supervisor Bradstreet touched upon the subject of the statewide tax cap as well, saying that it may have been a welcomed change for residents, but made running a small government, which relies on revenue generated by tax dollars, difficult. He also said losing a successful retail business, Cazenovia Equipment Company, to Cazenovia was a low point for Nelson this year, although he wishes the company well. The thriving farm-equipment company moved their headquarters to Cazenovia after a fire devastated their Nelson location this summer.
“We wish the Frazee’s a lot of success, they were with us for 50 years. [Their new headquarters] is moving very quickly. It’s a spectacular facility,” Bradstreet said. “It was sad losing them; they had been good for Nelson. We don’t know what they will use with [their former location] property, but there is talk about an Aldi’s or feedmill.”
Ending his speech on a positive note, Bradstreet told of the new playground planned for Nelson, and his confidence in the two new enthusiastic councilors elected to the town board, John LaGorga and John Laubscher.
In his speech, Superintendent Dubik recapped the 2010-11 Cazenovia school year, which was full of student and faculty accomplishments, both academically and athletically. Three varsity sports teams, including the field hockey, ice hockey and lacrosse squads, claimed Class C state championships; the high school technology department was named the Central New York Technology Department of the Year, with department leader Chris Hurd earning the title of CNY Technology Teacher of the Year; and the district was ranked ninth out of 431 school districts across Upstate New York. In addition, the high school was named as one of Project Lead the Way’s 16 nationally-recognized Model Schools and a team from the Cazenovia FFA participated in the 84th National FFA Convention in Indianapolis.
Dubik outlined the $12.6 million Capital Improvement Project, which was completed in September, and addressed the growing problem with declining enrollment. For the past two years, the district has observed smaller numbers of incoming kindergarteners; Dubik noted if enrollment continues to decrease, the district may have to slowly downsize teaching staff. Concluding, he asked Valeskey and Magee to continue their work securing mandate relief and promoting Cazenovia as an attractive area for young families to move to.
Supervisor Monforte first thanked area voters for electing him to a second term, and applauded the owners of large businesses that have chosen to reside in Cazenovia while operating their companies in Madison County. He said lake treatments are scheduled to take place in 2012, and stressed the importance of the proposed vacuum sewer district for lake vitality.
“It would reduce the nutrient loading in the lake dramatically over a period of time, and would hopefully lower management costs in the future,” Monforte said. He acknowledged the project would be expensive, and the town would seek help from state funding as well as lake-resident participation.
Monforte described recent improvements to internal town operations and his newest position on the Madison County Board of Supervisors as Department Chair of Planning. Citing points of Dubik’s discussion on declining enrollment, he spoke on the importance of having real estate which would attract younger families as well as older professionals to the area.
After concluding his speech, Supervisor Monforte read from notes prepared by Mayor Wheeler.
Wheeler said the budget has been stable this year, and he is interested to see the community improve and the tax base grow. After the recent annexation of 13 acres into the village, it is believed Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes will develop a location on Route 20.
“Sales tax revenue is up slightly this year, a trend we hope to see going forward. We are hopeful that we will also begin to see growth in total assessed value by next year, as new commercial development occurs,” he wrote.
Wheeler mentioned the projects planned to be completed using grant funding, including the Stormwater Runoff Harvesting Project and revitalization of Carpenter’s Barn. He thanked Magee for his assistance in funding the repair of the Clark Street bridge and promised taxpayers the village board would pass the “smallest budgets we can, while maintaining essential services in the community.”
Pierce Smith is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at 434-8889 ext. 338 or email@example.com.