Oct 03, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
Fenner is not a one-issue town, and the upcoming town elections should be less about hydrofracking and more about sensible, accountable government that continues to improve town services, keeps taxes low, remembers the town’s agricultural base and welcomes new businesses.
This is the platform of the Republican candidates for Fenner supervisor and town board — two longtime public servants and one political newcomer who believe their business and political experiences, along with a common sense approach to governing, will best represent the town they love.
“There are so many things in this town to do,” said Town Councilor David Jones, who is running for town supervisor. “We want to keep improving our services, and one of the most important jobs of the town board is the appointment of people to the other municipal boards [in the town].”
“I don’t think we need more government and more laws, that’s one reason why I live here,” said Town Councilor Hannah Strack, who is seeking reelection to a fifth term on the town board.
“The main thing is to use common sense and think things through,” said Bill Cody, a local dairy farmer who is running for town councilor. “Fenner is still predominantly an agricultural community, and I think it’s important to have board members who are in touch with that.”
The Republican candidates have 41 years of town political experience among them, and all three have owned or run a business. Along with all this experience, they say, they also have the fresh blood of a 30-year-old resident who is eager to get involved and bring a different point of view to the board.
Jones is a retired dairy farmer who has lived in Fenner for his entire life of nearly 64 years. He has been on the town board for 25 years, since he was appointed to fill an unexpired board seat in 1988, and has been reelected six times. Prior to that, he served eight years on the Madison County Farm Bureau board of directors.
Strack is a heavy equipment operator for Stowell’s Excavation in Cazenovia. She grew up in Cazenovia and has lived in Fenner for 27 years. She has been a town councilor for the past 16 years, has served previously as president and treasurer of Cherry Valley Carriage Association and as a past board member of the Friends of Lorenzo.
Cody is a 30-year-old dairy farmer who has lived his entire life in Fenner. He previously served three years on the Madison County Farm Bureau board of directors. This is his first time running for a political office.
Jones, Strack and Cody all said they are running for office out of a general concern for the town and a desire to contribute to its continued growth and well-being.
During his tenure on the board, the town has drastically improved the roads and town equipment, become financially more prosperous, welcomed new businesses and lowered taxes, Jones said. “Since 1998 our tax rate went from $6.49 [per $1,000] to $3.47 today. Probably not too many towns can say the same,” he said. “We want to keep improving our services.”
Strack said that the continued improvements of town roads by the highway department — to which she is board liaison — and the tax rate are two of the biggest issues in town.
“I don’t know if hydrofracking will ever come here, but I know it will snow here and I’ll have to drive the roads, and I’ll have to pay taxes. Those are the things that concern me,” she said.
“We’ve all run a business, and the town is a business,” Jones said.
Cody agreed. “Business experience helps tremendously if you balance your own checkbook,” he said.
The elephant in the room
For the Fenner town election, the elephant in the room is the issue of gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking. The three candidates of the Fenner Neighbor Party have made opposition to the controversial drilling practice the centerpiece of their campaign for the town election, and said their first priority if elected will be to pass a moratorium and ultimately a ban on gas drilling in Fenner.
There currently is no specific law in Fenner to prohibit gas drilling. The town board has maintained that current town zoning laws sufficiently regulate the issue and therefore a moratorium or ban on the practice is unnecessary. In June, the Fenner Neighbors group asked the board to have Town Attorney Jim Stokes review the zoning laws and give his legal opinion on their efficacy against gas drilling. Stokes said that gas drilling is not a permitted use under the town’s zoning laws, and there is nothing in the code that would “logically include” gas drilling in any sort of “general” instance.
Jones, Strack and Cody said they all trust Stokes’ opinion, and believe current town zoning laws, along with the current state drilling moratorium, sufficiently protect the town. But more than that, they do not see hydrofracking coming to Fenner anytime soon, and to spend taxpayer money on an improbable occurrence is not in the town’s interest.
“Why spend money if we don’t know what’s coming?” Jones said. “Let’s wait to see what [the state] does.”
All three agreed that drilling in Fenner is unlikely because the shale is too close to the surface and there is no adequate water supply for the millions of gallons per well that hydrofracking requires. Add to that the fact that there is a large and vocal public opposition to fracking in the town and New York state has such high taxes and large amounts of red tape for any drilling company interested in coming, and the Republicans don’t see drilling arriving in Fenner any time soon.
“For Fenner it’s really not even a debate at this point,” said Cody, who has done a lot of research on the issue. “Anybody I have talked to on this said it won’t come here soon, if at all. Thirty years ahead — maybe. But the technology will be so different and so far advanced … To debate this in Fenner is almost irrelevant right now.”
Strack agreed. “It’s so far in the future if anything were to ever happen … I just don’t see it coming here in my lifetime,” she said.
The three Republicans will face off Nov. 5 against the candidates of the Fenner Neighbor Party: Carl Snow for town supervisor and Cindy Gavula and Phil Rose for town board. Fenner Democrats did not nominate candidates for any of the elected offices on the ballot, and current Councilor Henry Stoker, a Democrat, decided not to run for reelection.
Fenner residents will vote for town supervisor and two town board members on the ballot. If Jones wins election as supervisor, he will have to resign his current seat as town councilor and the newly sworn-in town board will appoint someone to fill the remainder of his term.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.