Comments on how the city should spend $10 million in downtown revitalization funds; construction on top of the aquifer; locating a county jail in Cortlandville; and how to get local government to be more open were offered at a forum Saturday.
Candidates for positions in Cortland and Cortlandville had a chance to speak about public concerns at the forum at the Elks Lodge in Cortland, hosted by the Cortland County League of Women’s Voters. Hopefuls for Cortland Common Council, Cortlandville Town Board and Cortlandville town judge responded to questions from league President Alison King.
Incumbent Carlos Ferrer, a Democrat, vs. Republican Penny Hughes
Hughes, an employee for Upstate University Hospital, said $10 million in state downtown revitalization money could go toward courtyards and places where people can chat. She wants to address public safety in parks, mentioning how sometimes when walking down the street, she does not feel safe.
Ferrer did not attend.
Incumbent Adam Megivern, a Republican, vs. Democrat Troy Beckwith
Megivern, executive director for the Cortland Downtown Partnership, said Cortland is at an important juncture with remarkable developments taking place over the past two years. He said the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, for which he is on the local planning committee, needs community involvement to find the best uses for the funds.
“We have more opportunities than ever before,” Megivern said, noting about $100 million of development already happening in the city.
Megivern wants more city funds for a middle-income grant program and work on revitalizing public spaces.
Beckwith, a member of the city Planning Commission, said he would put the 7th Ward first in his priorities, mainly advocating for revitalization funds, dealing with chronic flooding and putting a four-way stop at Pomeroy and East Court streets.
Beckwith said Megivern’s work to get the downtown revitalization grant was great for Main Street, but not for the ward.
“Adam’s not a bad guy, but I’m running because Megivern is the wrong guy for the ward,” Beckwith said.
Beckwith’s other concerns are addressing vacant buildings and crime and work on fixing drainage.
C’ville Town Board
Four candidates seek election: Republicans John Reynolds and incumbent Gregory Leach; and Democrats Doug Withey and Danny Devlen.
Leach said since he joined the board in 2008, there have been no significant tax increases, Bryne Dairy opened a plant, Walmart built a larger store and Gutchess Lumber Sports Complex started development. He said he has never missed a board meeting and would like to see the town share resources with the county. Leach said he prefers to keep the county jail in the city.
A retired SUNY Cortland police officer, John Reynolds said he has the free time to dedicate to the board. He thinks the town’s greatest needs are revising its comprehensive plan to address solar power.
He feels the town can share equipment with the county. Reynolds wants to prevent contamination of the aquifer and have the budget process be more transparent to the public. He believes the town should have some say if the county jail is planned in Cortlandville.
Withey, a former Cortland Water Department superintendent, said he would like to see more public participation in town government, noting that 5 p.m. board meetings are inconvenient for many people. He disagrees with Leach that the town has handled the State Environmental Quality Review process properly and is a strong advocate for aquifer protection, opposing the attempt to weaken aquifer protection. He said the board did not listen to the county and town planning board and the residents who opposed gas station development.
“The fact I’m running as a Democrat doesn’t make a big difference,” Withey said. He also opposes having the county jail along Route 13, where it would be one of the first things people see driving into Cortlandville from Tompkins County.
“We want people to feel welcome,” Withey said. “Not sure diving past a prison is what we want to forecast.”
Devlen did not attend.
C’ville town justice
Republican Robert DeMarco, vs. Democrat Lenore LeFevre
DeMarco is an assistant district attorney in Cortland County. He said he’s happy with the state moving 16- and 17-year-olds to juvenile court, but those cases will not appear in town court. DeMarco has not seen any instances of racial bias in court. He wants to educate residents about what a town court can provide and feels its important for a judge to be involved in the community. DeMarco said he would tailor sentences individually to each case.
A former member of the Navy reserves, Lenore LeFevre has been a lawyer for 23 years and is the county’s assigned council administrator. She said the changes for 16 and 17 year olds in court would benefit youthful offenders and she has not seen racial bias in the court. LeFevre called the Cortlandville town court one of the most efficient courts in the county and said she had no client-attorney relationships preventing her from taking the position, though she did call out DeMarco for the potential of anyone he previously worked with appearing before him in court. LeFevre said it is important for a judge to be invested in the community and she is open to alternatives to incarceration in sentencing.