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Belson wins Yates nod as counting ends

YATES – The fissure over a proposed wind energy project has split Yates nearly equally in half, Supervisor John Belson said.

“It’s 50/50, that’s the problem we’re having, it (hasn’t been) decisive enough to make a decision,” said Belson, who received a reminder of the passionate debate Tuesday.

Belson survived a primary challenge by GCC Associate Dean Jim Simon, winning the Republican nomination by an unofficial 154-to-147 count, the Orleans County Board of Elections announced following the counting of 18 absentee ballots.

Simon, who trailed by six votes on election night, intends to stay in the race.

“This is day one of the write-in campaign,” Simon said as he departed the elections office in Albion.

For Belson, the counting began a period that he said is otherwise unchanged in running the town’s government. Yates is preparing its 2016 budget, he said, and working to consolidate assessment services with Ridgeway and Shelby.

“It’s business as usual,’’ said Belson, who has served on the town council since 2006, the last four years as supervisor.

Their work was upended last August when the proposed Lighthouse Wind project in neighboring Niagara County was expanded to include a portion of Yates in its target area. Belson and the town council have been under consistent pressure from residents opposed to the project, Simon among them, as well as those that support the installation of industrial-scale turbines in rural areas of the town.

Belson said they’ve tried to stay neutral without a clear mandate from their constituents. A survey prepared by representatives of the town, Apex Clean Energy and Save Ontario Shores is being hashed out to provide a clearer answer.

For now, Yates has a sample of 300 Republicans. It was close, but Belson ended up ahead.

The larger challenge remains.

“We’re trying to stand up for the whole community,” he said.