September 2, 2011
County candidates focus on landfill, budget
Democrats facing primary lay out views on challenges county faces at candidates forum
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Cortland County Legislature candidate Don Spaulding speaks Thursday to issues affecting Cortland County during a candidate forum at the Cortland Elks Lodge.
With three out of the four challengers absent at the Cortland County Legislature candidate forum Thursday night, the Democratic incumbents who attended spoke to the county’s most pressing issues: what to do with the county landfill and their concerns over imminent gas drilling activities.
In attendance were incumbents Tom Hartnett (4th Ward), Richard Bushnell (5th Ward), Don Spaulding (6th Ward) and Kathie Arnold (Cuyler, Solon and Truxton), and Lesa Williams, who is Arnold’s opponent.
Williams was the sole representative of the opposition in the upcoming Democratic primary elections.
George Dafoe, vying for Bushnell’s seat in the 5th Ward, was away on business as an electrical lineman, said Bob Haight, executive director of the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber hosted the event at the Cortland Elks Club.
It was the third forum this week for primary candidates in the city and county.
Brenda Daniels, who is running against Spaulding in the 6th Ward could not attend because she is a teacher and the school year had just begun and Arthur Mahar, Hartnett’s opponent in the 4th, was expected to attend but did not, said Haight.
If elected, Bushnell would be beginning his second term, Arnold her third, Spaulding his fourth and Hartnett his fifth.
Hartnett, Bushnell, Arnold and Williams all agreed they were resistant to natural gas drilling, specifically hydrofracking, citing concern for the environment and the county’s sole source aquifer. All expressed their desire to retain the landfill as a resource for Cortland County alone, instead of expanding it into a regional facility.
Bushnell and Hartnett favor exploring alternative technologies, such as thermal gassification, which converts solid waste into gas that can be sold on the market. Arnold mentioned increasing revenue through accepting Beneficial Use Determinants, which are materials that can be used as fill at the landfill.
Williams said the issue of what to do with the landfill should be left to the voters, citing her own business interest as a co-owner of Cortland Sanitation, a trash hauler, as her reason for deferring.
The candidates were all asked to speak about the state-imposed 2 percent property tax cap, and how they could maintain county services in light of it.
Hartnett said drastic cuts will be needed, adding duplicative services must go and nonmandated services like mental health should be abolished for the state to deliver as needed.
Hartnett said detailed monthly reporting from department heads at committee meetings is needed to stay on top of delivering essential services. Spaulding said the state should be forced to take over Medicaid costs, and Bushnell said the state should have introduced mandate relief along with the tax cap.
Arnold joined her fellow candidates in bemoaning the state’s lack of mandate relief, saying the county will be hard-pressed to continue delivering essential services like senior programs amid the pressures.
Spaulding said he wants voters to know he is the best person for the job.
“Because I don’t do it for me, I do it for my constituents and I try to represent them with my vote,” Spaulding said, adding that he would like to increase communication between city aldermen and county legislators, and suggested holding monthly meetings between the groups.
Bushnell said he wants to continue working on the big issues facing the county, like gas drilling and what to do with the landfill.
Williams said she has always wanted to run and finally has the time now that her oldest child is 20 years old.
“I always wanted to do this. I’ve always wanted to make a difference, and the issues now I think are big ones,” Williams said.
Arnold said she would bring to the job her business savvy as a farm owner of 32 years and four years of experience she has as a legislator.
“I would bring my small business experience to the table as well as common sense and an apolitical outlook,” Arnold said.
Hartnett said he wants to take on the tough issues facing the county, such as the budget.
“We need to get on board with counties to get something going to say to the state, ‘no more,’” Hartnett said.
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