Feb 06, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The year 2012 was a good one during which many positive accomplishments were made by the Cazenovia village and town governments and school district, and the outlook for 2013, despite the typical issues and challenges faced every year, is just as optimistic.
This was the message conveyed to about 75 local residents during the annual State of the Area meeting last week, held at the Cazenovia American Legion Post 88 and sponsored by the Greater Cazenovia Area Chamber of Commerce.
The meeting offered local residents a chance to hear updates from, as well as ask questions to, their local officials. Attending the meeting were Cazenovia Mayor Kurt Wheeler, Cazenovia Town Supervisor Ralph Monforte, Cazenovia Central School District Superintendent Bob Dubik, Nelson Town Supervisor Roger Bradstreet and New York State Assemblyman for the 121st District Bill Magee. Invited but not present were Fenner Town Supervisor Russell Cary, Eaton Town Supervisor Priscilla Suits and New York State Senator for the 53rd District David Valesky.
The moderator for the evening was chamber of commerce Chair Gene Gisson, and comments on the state of the chamber and commerce in Cazenovia were made by chamber member Art Bigsby.
“We had a wonderful year in 2012,” Bigsby said during the first remarks of the evening. He said the chamber now has 350 members, drew about 25,000 people into the village for local events last year and a recent survey of chamber members showed a majority of respondents felt business was better in 2012 than 2011.
Bigsby said there is a need for more affordable housing for people of all ages in the community, the improvement of which would help the local economy and business community.
Dubik also cited a lack of affordable housing as one of the main challenges facing the Cazenovia school district, saying the district has lost 300 students in the last nine years.
“We need students,” Dubik said. “We need affordable housing in the community for young families [with children]. That’s what we need.”
Another challenge for the school district in 2013 is financial — an annual budget with cost increases but revenue losses, and a reduction in state aid of $1 million every year.
“We want to be efficient, save money and consolidate while continuing our high academics,” Dubik said.
But the superintendent offered more positive news than negative, citing many of the district’s numerous successes during the past year such as Burton Street Elementary winning the national Blue Ribbon Award and being named one of the top 100,000 schools in the country. The district has also consistently been named one of the top districts — with the tops schools — in the region and the state in various surveys and publications, he said. On top of that, the high school academic decathlon team recently placed first in sectional competition and now goes on to state competition.
Monforte gave a brief overview of town happenings as well as county happenings, since he also sits on the county board of supervisors. He mentioned the town’s current efforts to regulate heavy trucking on town roads to protect infrastructure from possible heavy use by gas drilling or other heavy industries. He also said the town has applied for a grant to build a hydroelectric plant at the wastewater treatment center to power the plant using stream energy. “We think we have a really good shot [at the grant],” he said.
Monforte said the county continues its Buy Local campaign, saying that if county residents spend $3.52 or more within Madison County every day — such as buying gas locally rather than once people drive across the nearby Onondaga County line — it would generate enough revenue to cover all nonprofit support the county offers.
“It doesn’t take much really to spend that [locally],” Monforte said.
Wheeler said that 2012 was a “busy and productive year” for the village and 2013 is “shaping up to be the same way.” He listed numerous accomplishments by the village last year, including the new library parking lot, the opening of the Clark Street bridge, renovation of Carpenter’s Barn and the annexation of town land for the construction of the proposed Empire brewery.
He said the village issued a survey last year asking residents what they love most about the village and what they would change. Respondents said they loved the family atmosphere, the caring neighbors, the rural environment and beautiful lake and the good schools; and they were most concerned about better village parking, more local activities and shopping opportunities, cleaning up or removing defunct buildings and the availability of senior housing.
Wheeler said the challenges and opportunities for 2013 must be met by teamwork and self-reliance as a community, saying that state and federal money is no longer a reliable source of funding for local projects.
“We must be efficient and self-reliant … [and] sensitive to how we grow our community and our brand as a community,” Wheeler said. “I really believe we can do these things by working together. Keep us informed, we’re her to serve you.”
During the question-and-answer portion of the meeting, multiple questions were raised about how Cazenovia and adjacent towns were handling the issue of hydrofracking and gas drilling possibly entering the area, especially why none of the municipalities had passed moratoriums on the industry.
Bradstreet said Cazenovia’s proposed heavy trucking road use law is a “good move” for the town, and Nelson plans to follow suit. He said he does not believe tourism will be impacted if gas drilling comes to the region because “nobody will ever permit gas wells in the city limits.”
Monforte said that while Cazenovia is closely monitoring the gas drilling issue, there is really nothing substantive the town can do until the state rules on whether or not the practice will even be allowed in New York. As for passing a pre-emptive moratorium, “You have to play your strongest cards at the right time,” he said. “You can’t always play your cards when everybody wants you to play them.” He said Cazenovia is letting other communities spend a lot of money on various regulations concerning gas drilling — which nobody knows whether or not those regulations will stand in the face of state or court rulings — before the town acts “with our small budget.”
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.