November 26, 2021

C’ville candidates spar

Democrat Withey, GOP’s Williams debate at CHS

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

Preparing for Tuesday night’s Cortlandville candidates debate are supervisor candidates, at left, Democrat Doug Withey and, at right, Republican Tom Williams. At center is director Melissa Quinlan.

Expectations for vacant businesses, plans to make sure the Gutchess Sports Complex benefits taxpayers and ideas for transportation improvements were among the topics discussed during the Cortlandville town supervisor debate Tuesday between the incumbent and a town councilperson.

Democrat Doug Withey, town council member and owner of a water operator training facility, debated Republican incumbent town Supervisor Tom Williams, a retired state trooper and business owner.

The event was live streamed at Cortland High School and hosted by the Cortland Standard and the X101 radio station.

Withey has been on the town council since 2018 and is challenging Williams for the position he’s held since 2020.

During the debate, the candidates were given chances to provide opening statements followed by questions on the following topics:

  • What should solar development look like in Cortlandville in the coming years?
  • What will the comprehensive plan make the town look like in 20 years?
  • How do you plan to provide transportation options that are convenient, safe and affordable?
  • How do you plan to keep the Gutchess Lumber Sports Complex cost-neutral to taxpayers?
  • What is the future of the district along routes 281 and 13?

Withey has been a member of the Cortlandville Town Board since 2018 and has 35 years’ experience with municipal government, retiring in 2006 as the city of Cortland’s water superintendent.

Williams has been Cortlandville town supervisor since 2020, previously serving as a Cortland County Legislator for eight years, representing Homer from 1992 to 1994 and from 2005 to 2010.

On the solar moratorium, Withey said the development project is long overdue.

“Every day that we’re waiting or slowing down on this, not accomplishing or bringing it to an end, the town is losing money. It’s time to put this to bed, and I’ll do that,” Withey said.

Williams said the project has a lot of moving parts and can’t be done overnight.

“I would rather take time to do it and do it right than to have to come back in two more years and fix it again — which is what we did a few months ago.”

Withey replied that it’s time to get things done so the town can use those resources.

On the town’s comprehensive plan, Williams said it deals with a variety of issues including zoning, land use, transportation, industrial and more.

“It tries to take a picture from above the town and do a layout of where things are,. and where they should be,” Williams said.

When the plan first rolled out at the beginning of 2020, the town board was focused on dealing with pandemic issues but moved the plan along for public comment, Williams said.

Withey responded that sending the plan back to consultants prolongs the process on something that is already long overdue.

“We need to know what the future of Cortlandville is going to be, and we can’t do that without our comprehensive plan,” Withey said.

Following that, Cortland High School senior and student news anchor Monica Costner asked both candidates how they would provide convenient, safe and affordable transportation options for residents and their families.

Withey said the first thing he would do is put more sidewalks in along major roads.

“Let’s get some sidewalks in there so people are safe to travel, for your pets, for kids who ride bikes,” Withey said.

As a former code enforcement officer, Williams said he knows that Cortlandville is in need of stricter measures to keep the current sidewalks maintained.

“There are days and weeks that go by after a snowstorm,” Williams said. “That needs to be addressed.”

A hot-button issue for the evening was the Gutchess Lumber Sports Complex, and how the candidates planned to keep the project cost-neutral.

Williams said the town put money into the project and now has the opportunity to bring in a nationally known company to manage the field and pay the town annually.

“What we’re going to end up with in 20 years is four state-ofthe-art fields, and somebody else is paying for them,” Williams said.

Although he supports the park itself, Withey said he is not in favor of the contract with Prep Baseball Report, or PBR “To sign over all those assets to an out-of-state for-profit organization that’s come in to virtually fleece us?”

Withey said the “taxpayers are going to make up the difference when PBR falls short of meeting our debt, and our operations and maintenance.”

Williams responded that whichever way you want to look at it, the sports complex is going to be a moneymaker for the town and county.

Withey said he expects the town won’t make money by sending tax dollars to a company from Indiana.

The final question of the night focused on the future of the vacant buildings along routes 281 and 13.

Williams said those vacancies will someday be the setting of economic growth in the town.

“There’s going to be growth driven by excitement into the economy, driven by sales tax and you’re going to see a lot of old stores fixed up and repurposed, or torn down and the land reused,” Williams said.

The first step is to encourage local shopping, Withey said.

“We need to incentivize our students that come from Cortland, Homer, McGraw to stay in the area and grow as young entrepreneurs,” Withey said.

“They have great ideas, they know what they want to do, but we need to help them through the door to open a business for them to stay here.”