CHERRY VALLEY _ Candidates in Cherry Valley’s town election say the vote is not a referendum on wind turbines.
Incumbent Republican town supervisor Tom Garretson is seeking a second two-year term.
Garretson ran unopposed two years ago when he took over from Bob Loucks, who had held the position for more than three decades. This year, Garretson is being challenged by Linda Franzese, who is running as a Democrat and an independent.
Garretson said land use is one of the major issues facing the town. The town recently adopted a comprehensive plan that provides the framework for land use regulations designed to help the community reach the goals it identified in the plan. The supervisor said he established a land use committee to begin work on land use.
In his first term, the supervisor introduced a resolution to change the size of the town board from three members to five because he believes it would be more representative of the community.
Garretson said the town and village have been working on sharing services, but have gone about as far as possible.
He said last year that the town board was committed to looking into alternative energy for the town and has established a committee to research it. A representative from Empire State Wind Energy, LLC, is coming to Cherry Valley later this month to talk about the possibility of a project in Cherry Valley.
What the supervisor envisions is a wind project on a much smaller scale than one proposed by Reunion Energy. Garretson said it might be possible to work with the school to put a couple turbines on its campus.
“It’s not as large a project, but could be big enough to make a difference,’’ he said.
According to Garretson, the school is an excellent location, and the school and community could benefit from decreased energy costs at the school. It may also be possible to find a location on farm fields to place turbines that does not require clear cutting ridgelines.
“There’s no project now. We’re talking out loud, thinking about some options that might work,’’ he said. “With Reunion we had a developer telling the town what they were going to do. This would be the town telling the developer what’s acceptable.’’
Linda Franzese, a lifelong resident of Cherry Valley, served 12 years as a village trustee and five years on the town planning board. She is a former president of the Cherry Valley Chamber of Commerce and is the board chairman of the Cherry Valley Community Facilities Corporation. She is currently employed part-time with the Otsego County Board of Elections.
She describes herself as a “direct and no-nonsense’’ person.
“I have good ideas and can offer my talents to the community. I am responsible, reliable and have a broad base of knowledge of the community,’’ she said. “I know where the community has been and where it is headed.’’
Franzese said Cherry Valley’s population has declined over the years and she is concerned about the tax burden that places on property owners. Spreading the tax levy over fewer people is especially a problem for residents with fixed incomes.
Finding ways to share services with the village is a good idea, particularly if it can save money, but she does not agree with unincorporating the village and having it become part of the town.
“I’m not for that at all. Cherry Valley has a lot of history as a village and I would not necessarily want to see that history blended with the town,” she said.
Franzese said Sharon Springs to the east and Richfield Springs to the west are undergoing revitalizations, and she would like to see the same thing happen in Cherry Valley, where the business district has many empty storefronts.
She also expressed concerns about who will end up paying the bill for the operations and maintenance of the Cherry Valley Visitor Center, and doesn’t want to see that fall to the taxpayers.
Franzese would support a wind generated energy project in the town, but only if it is the appropriate scale.
“I’m all for alternative energy. We have to look at it for the future. For Cherry Valley, the plan has to be the right one,” she said.
She reiterated that her candidacy and the election is not about wind turbines.
“There is a wind ordinance in place and it’s a done deal. We need to get past that and move on,’’ Franzese said.
She said she running because she is heeding the wishes of the public, who are asking for a change.
“What more change could you have than a woman Democrat in northern Otsego County?’’ she asked, adding that residents will find her to be both straightforward and fair.
Both candidates for the open seat on the three-person Cherry Valley town board agree the vote is not about wind turbines.
“I don’t want people to think I’m running on wind,’’ said Russell V. Flint, who is running as a Democrat and an independent candidate.
“I want to see the community heal. I want to see it the way it used to be. In time it will heal. It’s not healed much. There are a few people who like to keep it stirred up,’’ he said. Republican and independent candidate Mark Cornwell agreed. “I’d really like to see the town put that behind them. I think things are improving in Cherry Valley. I don’t want to see old wounds reopened.
“I’m not against wind; I’m just against big business pushing us around. I wasn’t comfortable with that,’’ Cornwell added.
Flint has lived in Cherry Valley his entire life, and he believes that his knowledge of the town should figure heavily when voters go to the booth next week.
He has been a member of the fire department for more than 30 years, president of the Fish and Game Club and is now in his third seven-year term on the town planning board. He was, for many years, an independent small businessman in Cherry Valley.
“I’ve always been involved in the community,’’ he said. “I’ve been interested in running for office for some time. I’m no stranger to town government and I like being involved.’’
Cornwell was appointed in January to complete the unexpired of Fabian Bressett, who resigned at the end of last year. Cornwell is now seeking his first full term on the board.
Cornwell is a fisheries instructor at SUNY Cobleskill.
His position there has taught him to be a good money manager, providing oversight for budgets and grants he has received. He says he is a good researcher, and takes time to understand issues before making decisions.
One of his most important attributes, he says, is that he is a good listener.
“Even if we have a difference of opinion, I will always be open to comment from the public. There shouldn’t be a person in Cherry Valley who would be uncomfortable talking to me,’’ he said.
The town needs to get its hands wrapped around the energy issue, he said.
Cornwell stressed the importance of energy conservation.
“There are many painless measures which could be taken locally before we develop more energy,’’ he said.
Cornwell chairs the town’s Committee on Alternative and Renewable Energy, and said if there is to be a wind project in Cherry Valley, it should originate from the town and not some outside developer.
He also sees great potential for the community if rural broadband internet access was made available.
It would, he believes, open the door to small cottage industries that are compatible with the atmosphere in Cherry Valley.
Cornwell said he is running because “Cherry Valley is great place to live and he wanted to be involved and do something for the community.’’
The election is next Tuesday, Nov. 6.
By Jim Austin
1 November 2007
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