December 2, 2021

C’ville issues: development, accountability

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Two years ago, Thomas Williams and Douglas Withey competed for the seat of Cortlandville’s town supervisor. Now, they’re back on the ballot — Republican Williams as the incumbent seeking re-election, and Democrat Withey trying to take the seat.

Withey has been a member of the Cortlandville Town Board since 2018. Williams has been supervisor since 2020.

Williams’ goal is to keep Cortlandville growing through economic development, and Withey says he wants to bring transparency and accountability to the town.

A retired state trooper, Williams served eight years as a Cortland County legislator representing Homer from 1990 to 1994 and again from 2005 to 2010. He also spent eight years as a Cortlandville code enforcement officer from 2008 to 2016, and has worked as a home builder and business owner.

As supervisor, Williams hopes to see economic development. He said the town is waiting to move forward with its comprehensive plan, last updated in 1978, which looks at the town’s goals and how to make them happen.

Williams said Withey has a greater role in the lack of an updated plan than he does.

“He was involved with this process two years before I got here,” Williams said. “If he’s going to point fingers, I think maybe he should be looking in the mirror a little bit because those fingers should be pointed at himself as well as others.”

A big topic for Cortlandville recently has been the Gutchess Lumber Sports Complex, a multi-million-dollar operation in south Cortlandville that is expected to bring revitalization and economic development to the town and county, Williams said. The sports complex and other growth projects were a focus of Williams’ campaign.

The plan was to create the $19 million sports complex at minimal cost to taxpayers, generating $770,000 in state and local tax revenue and $7.3 million annually in economic activity. However, Cortlandville has since borrowed $3 million to build the next phase of the park, meaning the town must make $232,000 each year to pay the debt service. A contract with Prep Baseball Report would pay the town $218,000 a year for use of the facility.

“The county has committed $500,000 of federal money to commercial development at the ballpark. That’s bringing people into town, that’s incentivizing growth in the town,” Williams said.

Withey’s experience with municipal government dates back nearly 35 years. He retired in 2006 as the city of Cortland’s water superintendent and has served on the Homer Central School District Board of Education, the board of the American Red Cross and Homer First United Church. He owns W2 Operator Training Group, Port Watson Mini-Conference Center and Starr Road Apartments.

“It’s been a rewarding four years, and I’ve accomplished a lot,” Withey said during the debate. “But I’ve discovered some very troubling things, like the misappropriation of funds and the private use of equipment, and other things I want to address and change.”

The town’s comprehensive plan, which hasn’t been updated since 1978, is one of Withey’s goals to complete.

“The new plan, when it comes out, is going to be an open book and it’s never going to be closed,” Withey said. “This way it doesn’t go 40-something years without a change. It’s going to be new and relevant, day after day, year after year, so we’re not falling behind. We can’t let our town slip back year after year and not be ahead of the pack. You will get these plans done, I will do that.”