Contests for town supervisor in Lewiston, Wheatfield, Pendleton, Wilson and the Town of Lockport highlight Tuesday’s town elections around the county.
Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. The Niagara County Board of Elections has information on polling place addresses at www.elections.niagara.ny.us, or by calling 438-4040 or 438-4041.
Here is a look at the races.
The election is decided, since none of the candidates has opposition.
Voters will elect a new town clerk, Tamara J. Cooper, with the retirement of Lou Ann Murawski at the end of the year. Cooper has served as deputy clerk since 2002.
Incumbent Randy M. Roberts and newcomer Jeffrey S. Hurtgam also will be elected to two open spots on the Town Board for four-year terms. Incumbent Tax Collector Debra A. Littere also is running unopposed. All are backed by the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties.
Incumbents Brian L. Fitts, a town justice, and Councilmen Brian D. Gross and Joseph A. Reed will return to office without challenge and with support from the Republican, Conservative, and Independence parties.
Town of Lewiston voters will decide what has been a hotly contested race for supervisor, with Republican Councilman Ernest C. Palmer taking on Democratic Village Trustee Dennis J. Brochey Sr.
Republican incumbent Supervisor Steven L. Reiter, who had been seeking a third two-year term, got knocked out of the race in the Republican primary. Reiter found himself under a cloud of controversy after reports of an FBI investigation came to light.
Palmer, 54, of Lower River Road, said he would not have run without the support from the GOP and the Town Board. Palmer has been on the board for seven years. He has worked in the field of law enforcement for 30 years and still serves as a consultant. He worked as Niagara Falls police superintendent in the late 1990s and was that city’s chief of detectives prior to his retirement. He also worked for five years as the Village of Youngstown’s chief of police.
He also has environmental concerns, saying, “I don’t want more trucks in Lewiston. I think that Lewiston has been the end destination for garbage and waste for far too long, and the truck traffic detracts from the beauty of the town.”
Brochey, 61, of North Fifth Street, is a recently retired auto repair shop owner and is completing his first year as a Lewiston village trustee. He has been chairman of the state Power Lifters Association, is on the board of directors for the Lewiston Kiwanis Club and second co-chairman for the annual Peach Festival.
Brochey said financing is a key issue: “We’ve spent over $1 million at Joe Davis State Park with nothing really to show for it, and another (issue) was the money spent for a civic center that was voted down. I think all of those things could have been handled better without spending so much money.”
Both councilmen are running unopposed for re-election to four-year terms:
Alfonso M. Bax, 43, of Military Road is seeking a third term.
Michael J. Marra, 45, of North Seventh Street, who served two terms as a village trustee, is seeking a second term . Receiver of Taxes Republican Joan B. Stephens, 62, of Hillside Drive, is also running unopposed.
City of Lockport
All six Common Council seats will be filled – five of them with unopposed incumbents.
The only contest is in the 5th Ward, where Kenneth M. Genewick runs for his third term against Phyllis J. Green, who served eight terms in the 2nd Ward before reapportionment moved her into the 5th Ward.
Both candidates are Republicans, but Green, 80, has the Democratic line after losing to Genewick by 20 votes in the GOP primary.
Genewick, 40, has argued that Green has no new ideas and that she voted for budgets that raised property taxes 12 times in her 16 years on the Council, while he has not voted for tax increases.
Green has tried to tie the city’s fiscal woes to Genewick, who is chairman of the Common Council Finance Committee. The city is rated “financially stressed” by the State Comptroller’s Office, which is looking over city officials’ shoulders as they prepare a 2014 budget that is expected to include layoffs, possibly in the Police and Fire departments.
Town of Lockport
Republican Supervisor Marc R. Smith is running for his fifth term against a familiar opponent: David J. Mongielo, who lost to Smith in 2009.
A Republican then, Mongielo has changed his affiliation to Conservative and bested Smith by 13 votes in the Conservative primary. The Democratic line is blank.
Smith promises town residents “a bright future, where our community is prosperous and has stable taxes.”
Lockport has no general town tax and in recent years has trimmed the levy slightly. “We’ve had a plan, and we’ve followed it,” he said.
Mongielo has earned local notoriety through a series of court cases. He is awaiting his third trial on charges of violating the town’s ordinance against signs that change “format” more than once every 10 minutes with his LED sign board in front of his Robinson Road auto repair shop. He also faces charges of resisting arrest stemming from a run-in with City of Lockport police at a roadblock in June.
In both cases, Mongielo attempted to show that the municipal courts have no jurisdiction over him. City Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said Mongielo told the police officers that he was a “sovereign citizen,” a term Mongielo denies using. The FBI considers the use of that term to describe oneself a tip-off to possible involvement in domestic terrorism.
Smith said, “I personally don’t think he’s fit to serve now that he’s declared himself a sovereign citizen. If you don’t believe in the laws of the country, how can you take an oath of office?”
“I never considered myself a sovereign citizen,” Mongielo said. “When you read case history, it says sovereignty is vested in the people. I believe in the law the Constitution gave us.”
As for local issues, Mongielo accused the GOP organization of “manipulation of the ballots” through party committees.
“They’ve elected all their friends and relatives and contractors to these committees to endorse their candidates,” he said.
Mongielo called for tax cuts to return the town’s surplus to the people and said he opposes “corporate welfare” and Industrial Development Agency tax breaks.
Voters will choose two Town Board members from a field of three candidates.
They are: incumbent Robert A. Pettit, backed by the Conservative and Independence parties; Rick Coleman, with the support of the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties; and Susan L. Neidlinger, with the Republican nod.
Pettit is retired owner of L.E. Pettit Electric and is finishing his 12th year on the board. Coleman is chief operator and lab director of the Niagara County Water Treatment Plant. And Neidlinger owns Shoppe on Main in Newfane.
This is Neidlinger’s and Coleman’s first foray into local politics. They defeated Pettit in the Republican primary.
In addition, voters will re-elect Supervisor Timothy R. Horanburg and Town Justice Scott R. Boudeman, both running unopposed and backed by the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties. Boudeman also has the Democratic line.
Horanburg, 64, is running for his fifth consecutive two-year term. He previously served as Newfane supervisor for 14 years, beginning in 1984. He resigned as a fire technician to take the town’s job post again in January 2006.
Town of Niagara
A Niagara Wheatfield School Board member is challenging two incumbents for one of two seats on the Town Board.
Newcomer Richard A. Sirianni, who has Republican and Conservative backing and was elected to the School Board last year, is vying for one of the four-year terms on the Town Board. An officer in different capacities for more than 26 years with the Oil Chemical Atomic Workers union, he also served as president of the local and worked for 30 years with Carbide Graphic/Airco Carbon.
Sirianni said he intends to use fact finding to make decisions rather than be a part of the political and personal bickering on the board, which he said is currently hurting the town. He said he has been attending town meetings for the last two years to understand the issues.
He said he supports the expansion of the Fashion Outlets Mall of Niagara as a source of tax revenue and jobs, and the proposal to get the town a bigger share of the new sales tax revenues because of the cost of providing fire and police protection at the mall. He wants the town to develop a better plan to handle flooding and flood prevention.
Marc M. Carpenter, with Democratic, Republican and other party backing, has been a councilman since 1989 and has served as deputy supervisor. He said he could run down a list of his accomplishments on the board but felt it is more important for a councilman to demonstrate the qualities of a leader such as an open mind, being willing to listen to all sides and to focus on positive results in order to be effective. Responsibility, compassion and honesty are characteristics critical for a public official to stay in the public trust, he noted.
He said he recently voted against a proposal to spend about $650,000 on additions and improvements to Veterans Memorial Park, not because he opposed the concept, but because he said he owed it to the taxpayers to review a number of designs rather than just the one that was submitted. The board members need to be realistic about which projects suit the residents best and not rush into anything too quickly, he noted.
Incumbent Charles F. Teixeira, backed by the Democratic and other parties, is a lifelong resident of the town who has been on the board for seven years and is the current police commissioner. While a councilman, he has established a van service for the senior lunch program, worked with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to provide sidewalks for safe pedestrian walkways from Military Road to the bus terminal, advocated to purchase tasers for the town police, ensured that the town employee identification card creator also would be used to create Child Safety ID cards for all town children, supported the purchase of fuel-efficient police utility vehicles and created individual health record/medical permit and liability waiver forms for all children who attend the town recreation programs.
Teixeira said he is seeking to complete the transition of the U.S. Army property on Porter Road to the town for use as an industrial park during his next term and to push for a new sales tax distribution formula that would allot the town a larger share of the sales tax revenue from the mall expansion and use the extra funds for public safety.
He said he wants to ensure that any new development does not present a burden to the taxpayers.
James A. Riester, the only Democratic supervisor in the county, is running for his sixth term against Dominic H. Saraceno, a member of the Independence Party who moved into the town six months ago from the City of Lockport.
Saraceno, who has the Republican nomination, is a defense attorney with the County Conflict Defender’s Office, a patronage position.
“For 10 years, I haven’t seen any kind of development or growth (in Pendleton),” Saraceno said. “Talking to my neighbors, all of them moved here because school taxes were low, but now they’re as high as everyplace else. If the town could increase commercial development, it could reduce their tax burden.”
Riester said the town’s general tax rate of 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation is the lowest in the county among towns that have such a tax. He said he has cut the amount collected by that tax in half during his 10 years in office.
“We’ve got a business development committee. The issue is, we’ve got a limited amount of commercial space in the town, and the other issue is, finding some people to fill it,” Riester said.
Saraceno said if he wins, he will propose a six-year term limit for the supervisor. Without changes, “Everything becomes stale. Everything is just status quo,” he said.
“It’s not stagnant,” Riester said. “It’s the third- or fourth-fastest growing town in the county.” He said plans are on the drawing board for a community center in the town park.
“It’s not huge. We’re not talking Wheatfield,” Riester said.
The election also features four candidates vying for two spots on the Town Bpard.
The sole incumbent seeking re-election, Edward P. Harman, has backing from the Democratic and Pendleton Tax Cutter parties, support that he shares with candidate Eileen H. Czarnecki. Aimee A. Jarvis and David I. Fischer also seek election to the board, backed by the Republican, Conservative, Working Families and Independence parties.
The four candidates are vying for two seats with two-year terms.
Residents also will choose between incumbent Jeffrey R. Stowell and challenger Aaron J. Bair for superintendent of highways. Stowell has held the job for a decade and is supported by the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties. Bair has the backing of the Democrats and Pendleton Tax Cutter Party.
Town Clerk Terry J. Pienta has no challenger in her bid for re-election.
For the first time in more than 30 years in office, Town Justice David J. Truesdale will have opposition at the polls, facing Green Party candidate Daniel P. Boland. Truesdale, a registered Republican, earned all the other lines in the primary, including the Democratic party nod, even though Boland is a registered Democrat.
Truesdale is a retired Wilson teacher, long active in the Youngstown Volunteer Fire Company. Boland has been an attorney in private practice for 25 years and currently serves as a battalion chief with the Niagara Falls Fire Department, where he has worked for 35 years.
Supervisor Merton K. Wiepert is unchallenged in his bid for re-election to a four-year term. He has served as supervisor since 2000 and owned Wiepert’s Service for many years.
Voters also will re-elect Town Councilmen Thomas A. Baia and Joseph G. Fleckenstein and Tax Collector Sally A. Hogan. All four candidates are backed by the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties in noncontested races.
There is no competition on the ballot for six town posts this year. They are led by Supervisor Jennifer H. Bieber, 43, seeking her second, two-year term. Bieber has worked for Verizon Communications for 23 years and is a facility assistant at its North Tonawanda site.
Town Councilmen Daniel R. Bragg and James G. Budde seek another term, as do Town Clerk Marie L. Little; Town Justice Gregory A. Bass; Highway Superintendent Terry W. Nieman; and Tax Collector JoAnne K. Swick.
All seven incumbents are backed by the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties, except Budde, who has the Conservative and Independence nod but did not earn Republican support. Bass received additional backing from the Democrats, Working Parties and Green Party.
A battle over the job of retiring Highway Superintendent Kenneth J. Bigelow pits Michael M. Flint, a Republican, against Jonathan D. Dewart, who has the Conservative and Independence lines.
The Republicans did not endorse a candidate in the four-way primary, preferring to let things shake out, but threw their backing behind Flint for the general election. Flint has owned Mike Flint Trucking Co. since 1998. Dewart is employed in the town’s Water and Sewer Department. Both are political newcomers.
In addition, Supervisor Daniel M. Engert, 43, is unopposed in his bid for a second, two-year term. He is an administrative captain in the corrections division of the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office.
Also, Town Board members Gary R. Alt and Robin R. Jansen are unopposed for re-election, as is Tax Collector Ruth H. Wendler. All four candidates are backed by the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties in their uncontested races.
Look for a new name on the town clerk ballot. Tracy L. Carmer is unopposed in her bid to replace longtime Clerk Rebecca Connelly, who is retiring at the end of the year. Carmer also earned the backing of the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties. She has worked at Town Hall since 2003 and has served as deputy clerk since 2007.
In a rematch of the Republican primary, Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe is going for his third term against fellow Republican Thomas J. Larson, whom Cliffe defeated by a nearly 2-1 margin in the primary. Larson, however, has the Democratic line.
Cliffe, a former town justice, has submitted a 2014 budget that does away with the controversial highway tax, but Larson criticized Cliffe for keeping it as long as he did and warned that it might resurface.
“Taxes are the No. 1 issue,” Cliffe said. “We’re a bedroom community. People want to come home to a place where they’re not going to be taxed out of their own home.”
The town has built up healthy surpluses in most funds, which doesn’t impress Larson. “You have to ask how much surplus is necessary before you start returning services to folks,” he said.
Larson, who works in computer information technology at the University at Buffalo Medical School, is a member of the 107th Airlift Wing at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.
He said that the town has “tremendous drainage issues” and that the flooded fields and yards have led to a mosquito crisis.
Cliffe said his 2014 budget has money for a new mosquito-control program as long as the county helps out, which it hasn’t agreed to do yet. The budget also includes funds for renewed nuisance animal controls, which translates to “skunks.”
Cliffe said the main thing that needs to be done on skunks is for residents to make sure their garbage is secure and isn’t a source of rodent food.
The drainage issue will be addressed by the town Highway Department, Cliffe said. Larson said that a drainage department, as proposed by Councilman Arthur W. Gerbec, is “absolutely unnecessary” and that the problem should have been taken care of in the past summers.
“We have town engineers who work along with the developers,” Larson said. “Later on, we call in the same engineers to fix the problem. Maybe the issue is, we need new engineers.”
“As these developments get proposed, we have to look long and hard at what’s going to happen with the storm ater,” said Randy W. Retzlaff, a Zoning Board member and a site developer for Benderson Development Co.
Gerbec and Retzlaff, the nephew of retiring Councilman Kenneth W. Retzlaff, are the GOP ticket for two Town Board seats. The Democrats are running town party Chairwoman Shirley J. Joy and Judy A. Blake, a part-time town court clerk.
Randy Retzlaff said digging drainage ditches is “weather-dependent,” and the town will have to prioritize.
Joy, a retired accountant, said the town’s surplus “means to me that they probably overtaxed.”
She and Blake said the town needs to install drain tiles, more sewer lift stations and other infrastructure to solve the flooding woes.
She said the Democrats offer “checks and balances, because right now we’re ruled by one party.”
Blake said: “The Republicans have been in charge for 18 years. It’s time for a Democrat. And we haven’t had a woman on the board in years. We have a different perspective on things than men do.”
Gerbec said he still thinks a drainage department is a good idea, saying its members could be transferred from the Highway Department.
Calling drainage “my pet peeve,” Gerbec said a drainage department “is doable within the constraints of our budget and our manpower.”
“The Republicans are tried and true,” he said. “We’ve had a trial by fire and worked through the fire and improved the town across the board.”
As for the Democrats, Gerbec said, “They’re kind of shooting in the dark, trying to hit something.”
Supervisor Joseph A. Jastrzemski, a Republican, faces Democrat Patrick A. Daul in his bid for a fifth two-year term.
Jastrzemski, 58, also has Conservative and Independence backing. He heads the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office prison release program.
“I’m proud that in my eight years in office, the town has not been reassessed and that we’ve had six years of not raising property taxes,” he said.
This is Daul’s first time tossing his hat into the political ring.
“Wilson has a choice, and I hope they choose me,” said Daul, 50, an automobile transporter. no increase in taxes in the past few years – but we need tax cuts,” he said. “We need to try and keep residents here and make Wilson a destination to live. Our town government has become stagnant, nothing changes, and I want to make people come to Wilson and stay here. I want to see Wilson grow and take it to the next level.”
Residents also will re-elect incumbent Town Councilmen Brad L. Clark Sr. and Jon L. Munnikhuysen and Tax Collector Julia E. Godfrey, all both backed by the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties in uncontested races.
Niagara Reporter Nancy A. Fischer and Correspondent Thad Komorowski contributed to this report.