This is the continuation of questions asked of Lancaster Town Supervisor Robert Giza and Erie County Legislator Dino Fudoli at a debate held at the Lancaster Opera Hall on Tuesday evening, October 25, 2011.
5) Clearly the police budget is the largest part of the budget. What is your opinion on continuing with funding the present department or using the Sheriff’s department?
Legislator Fudoli: “Why would I jeopardize my campaign and make as my number goal to make sure the Lancaster police department got the new police facility built. Ever since the 2003 merger between the Town and Village police forces the police have been waiting for a facility to be built"
"So if that is my position why would I be sitting here today to tell you that I want to get rid of our police department? I would do nothing for the sake of conservatism to jeopardize our public safety.”
“We have lost over $1 million with the Colecraft Building and wasted revenues by taking the building off the tax rolls. Would I be interested in coordinating services with the Sheriff’s Department? No, I am now willing to jeopardize our public safety at this time an am in favor of keeping our police force as is."
Supervisor Giza: “As a side bar, we are trying to lower taxes. As for the police, it is probably the most important service we provide. We have to make sure that we have the very best and the finest equipment. I have been a Supervisor for 16 years and we tried to make things better for the village by merging the police forces. The merger process was very emotional thing.”
“The Sheriff Department has a 20 minute turn-around (response time) where the town has a 2 minute turn-around time. I have been approached by a resident at a board meeting about using the Sheriff’s. I asked by example, if your wife was hurt and you were hurt, would you want a 20 minute response time or a 2 minute response time. He answered: Two minutes for me and twenty minutes for my wife.”
“We have SRO officers in the schools and we have a D.A.R.E. officer and everything we need to be capable for any emergency for a town our size.”
6) How much did it cost the town up to this date to purchase and operate the Colecraft Building and what are we going to do with the building, keep it or sell it? And, what do you think will be best?
Supervisor Giza: “That’s a fair question. After the police merger, our present location was not large enough for the staff size. The Colecraft operation was a manufacturing company and I had seen the building once before. It was for sale at $1.6 million. I took at least the media, Town “Board members, Village Board members, and numerous residents. We talked about this at town board meetings. The Colecraft Building was not purchased in the middle of the night. We did a Trautman study where we looked at a new building, the Walden Avenue Colecraft Building, or redoing the Village (Municipal) Hall. By far, the building on Walden was shown to be the best option. It is almost in the geographic center of town.”
“And, we got into some legal battle along the way and it caused change along the way. We use the 76,000 square foot building for storage. A lot of equipment is stored out there to keep it out of the rain. So it hasn’t laid dormant for a number of years, we have used it for different purposes. But we are in the process of building a brand new station on Pavement Road, 27,000 square feet and the firing range that was included in the Colecraft building will move to a building that is on site with the police building.”
Legislator Fudoli: “Mr. Giza refers to using the building for storage. I would sell the Colecraft Building and put it back on the tax rolls. We have already wasted over $1 million on that project. Since the police merger in 2003, we have lost revenue from not having this building on the tax roll. It cost money for all the feasibility studies, which I challenge the accuracy of, that were done to determine this was the best build option, and we are not going to build a police facility at the Colecraft Building.”
“All of a sudden the best place to put the building is on Pavement Road and use the Colecraft Building to store materials and equipment. This board did not do their homework, did not do the proper studies and wasted taxpayer monies. I think the best thing to do is to sell the building and get it back on the taxpayer rolls and to use the money from selling the Colecraft Building to reduce the $10 million bond to $8 million.”
7) Putting two questions together, no other Town Supervisor has a town vehicle and the Supervisor gets certain perks. If elected Supervisor, what would you do to eliminate these perks?
Legislator Fudoli: “Obviously I have all along said that I would be willing to take a 10% pay cut and I would get rid of the taxpayer funded vehicle, and I would be willing to get rid of any extra stipend payout. I believe in public service. When we have people making $100,000 leading towns, this is out of line. I believe the stipend given the Supervisor for being overseer of the budget should be eliminated. That should be part of the Supervisor’s job. The Supervisor should be the CEO of the company and some of those positions should encompass the job. The public cannot afford to pay any more in taxes."
Supervisor Giza: “The statement he made was not very correct. There are other Supervisors in other towns that have vehicles; Orchard Park, Hamburg, Amherst, Tonawanda, West Seneca. While others drive Impalas I choose to drive a four wheel vehicle. When we had the October storm (2006), I was out there for three solid days. The vehicle I have can go through anything, but even I had trouble then.”
“I do not make $100,000 a year; I am 28th on the list of salaries for 150 town employees. I earn and deserve every penny I make. I work very hard. I work 60-70 hours per week. I eat, sleep and drink this job. I get a lot of calls, even in the middle of the night. I know everybody in town."
"My vehicle is a moving office. I have a raincoat in it, maps, shovels, etc. I have shoveled people out of snow banks. I have chains and helped a couple of cars to get moving. My vehicle is not a pleasure car. It is a vehicle that helps me do my job better.”
8) Mr. Giza, will the 2012 budget be approved on November 7th? If not, why not?
Supervisor Giza: “It is going to be on the November 7th meeting for approval and we will pass it then. I am telling everyone right now that this budget, presented by me, will be on November 7th. Don’t listen to rumors that we were going to change after the fact (Election Day). I want to say that nobody has ever lied to you or did something wrong. I have heard of any changes from the board members. So we are not going to change what we presented at the public hearing.”
Legislator Fudoli: “I think the budget presented this year is a good budget for the taxpayers. I would only hope that we would see town employees contribute something to their health plan. Such savings would cut the $1 million in reserves the town used in this budget."
9) Mr. Fudoli, what would you do as Town Supervisor to help the infrastructure, i.e., roads, bridges, etc.?
Legislator Fudoli: “There are sewer issues in the town that have been identified by studies. I have not been part of that town/county study. We need to sit down and develop a master plan. It will be hard to spend money on infrastructure when we are using $1 million in reserves to balance a budget and where that money is being used elsewhere. We need to target cuts so that we have money to spend on infrastructure needs.”
Supervisor Giza: “Our infrastructure is in great shape. We just spent $7 million on a new waterline. After we started working on the project, we noted other problems and had to take care of things that weren’t in the plan. We fixed Penora Street. We had 10-15 breaks in the line on Schwartz Road and bonded another $1 million to replace that line. We put a new pump station in on William and Transit. We had trouble supplying water to the water tower on Broadway. Part of the problem was they couldn’t pump enough water to it. We put the pump station in and I haven’t heard a word of a problem with residents, firemen, or anyone.”
“Concerning the sewer line problem with the Village of Lancaster, we never caused a problem for the village residents with our sewer lines coming out the town. Collins wrote a letter recently and took the weight off the town. It was a village problem. In fact, one of their lines doesn’t even connect to one of our lines. They (county) are putting in a reliever line now to relieve the sewer problems in the Village of Lancaster. But we never caused a sewer problem for the village."
“The county just repaired the bridges on Stony Road, Pavement Road and Cemetery Road. They had a federal grant to do that. They waited to election to do that. They put those two bridges together and work on them at the same time. We have been using those two bridges for a long time and all of a sudden they have to work on them at the same time. Why?”
“You go down any county road in Lancaster and they are in deplorable shape, not Lancaster’s.
10) Last Question: Mr. Giza, what is the most important issue facing the town, and why?
Supervisor Giza: “I think one of the most important issues is that people are leaving Erie County. They are not leaving Lancaster or Clarence. Lancaster gained about 2,000 people since the last census. Our tax base is growing because Businesses are coming here. Sales tax receipts are based on these two items, population and base. Because of that growth we are going to get a bigger share of the sales tax revenue.”
“My main job over the years has been to create jobs for our youngsters. I don’t want my grandchildren leaving because they could not find a decent job here. We want to keep our children here. We have brought many good jobs to Lancaster, diversified businesses. So my main job is to create jobs for people who want to stay here. That’s my objective.”
Legislator Fudoli: “I think the biggest problem here in Lancaster is taxes. It’s that simple. Since 2005 spending in Lancaster has gone up 50%. In going out and knocking on doors during my campaign and hearing from seniors saying that where they were making decisions about going to the movies once a week or eating out once a week, they are doing that once a month. A resident told me that at the rate we are going now in three years time I will be forced out of my house. It’s a serious problem.”
“My opponent is telling us that he is going to bring businesses here and create jobs, and I am a business owner myself. I would argue that if you tell a private business owner who wants to come here about our taxes without luring them without huge tax incentives…every time you give tax incentives to lure businesses here, the tax rate does not go down, it hurts the residents. They are sharing more of the burden.”
My opponent is right, Lancaster is a great community. It is a great community because of the people. But if we force them from their homes it is not going to be a great community anymore. We need to cut the taxes, cut the spending so our future generation can stay here.”
Each candidate was given one minute to make a closing statement.
Legislator Fudoli: “Obviously the biggest difference between Mr. Giza and myself is that the taxes we are under now is not sustainable. The people who live in Lancaster are telling me that tax increases whether it’s through regular tax increase, reassessments, whatever, it is taking more money out of their pockets."
"It’s as simple as that. We need to hold the line on spending and tax increases. We need to do more with less. We need to cut the spending and stop taking more money out of taxpayer pockets.”
Supervisor Giza: “I am very proud being the Supervisor of the Town of Lancaster. I love this town and plan to spend the rest of my life here. My family is all here, my children are here, my grandchildren are here. I would never knowingly hurt anyone, or hurt the town.”
“We are doing cost cutting things. I belong to the executive board of SMET, School and Municipal Energy Coop. We go on the market and buy large quantities of gas and electricity with the school district and save 15-20% on our electrical bill and 9-10% on the gas. We are now putting in LED lights into the signalization system that will save money. So we are doing a lot of cost saving things going on, and we are trying everything. And, I am quite sure we will keep the taxes down. I am reminded of that every day by the residents."
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