Mount Morris election to fill mayor, 2 trustee seats
Residents of Mount Morris will chose a new mayor and fill two trustee seats at the March 19 village elections.
Current Mayor Harold Long is retiring. Trustee Joel Mike, a Republican, and retired Streets Superintendent Patsy Zingaro, a Democrat, are vying for the mayor’s seat. Mike was profiled in the Dec. 27 edition of The Livingston County News; Zingaro was featured Jan. 24.
Contending for the two open trustee seats are Sonya Roberts and incumbent Bob Lonsberry on the Republican ticket, with Geoffrey Pagano and Joseph Corbett, Jr. on the Democratic ticket. Besides their major party affiliation, all six candidates have put their names on alternate independent lines: the Republicans as “Citizens for Mount Morris” and the Democrats as “The People’s.”
Here are profiles of the trustees candidate:
Sonya Roberts has lived all her life in Mount Morris. A 1998 graduate of Mount Morris Central School she holds an associate’s degree in occupational therapy and is employed at the county’s Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation on Murray Hill.
Roberts and husband Bill have been married nearly 10 years and have a daughter, age 5, and son, age 3. Roberts is a recently registered Republican, having formerly registered with the Right-to-Life party.
“About a year or so ago, when I started attending village board meetings, it came to my attention that you really need to be registered with a major party if you want to make a difference,” she observed.
Roberts became interested in local government issues after observing a village board meeting where the two percent tax cap elicited a split vote. By the time of the village caucus, her interest and attendance at meetings was generally known and Roberts found herself with an unopposed nomination for the village board seat being vacated by Trustee Joel Mike, who is making his bid for mayor.
Roberts is concerned over Mount Morris’ dubious position as the county’s village with the highest tax rate — 14.2 percent. She does not entirely subscribe to the excuse that rates are high because the assessments are low. She suspects that part of the problem has always been that village spending is excessive.
With the debt service of the new firehouse on the horizon, Roberts admits, “Quite honestly, I don’t think we can decrease the taxes at this point — but I don’t want to increase them.” She notes the promise from the mayor and current board that the firehouse project can be funded without raising taxes.
Speaking of retail development, Roberts said, “They are doing a great job bringing Mount Morris back, making it bright and vibrant. Now it comes down to keeping the commerce and merchants here and having people come shop here.”
On the subject of budget austerity, Roberts suggested, “I think you have to get down to brass tacks and look at each budget line word by word. I’m sure there are still places where money is being spent on things it doesn’t need to be spent on.”
“I hope people want to vote me in because I live here with my family and I’m in it for the long haul,” Roberts said. “I want to keep the village a safe and clean and economically viable place.”
Roberts emphasized she will bring a woman’s perspective to the village board — a commodity which historically has been in short supply in local Mount Morris government.
Roberts believes she will be well equipped to deal with the fiscal issues of village government: “My husband and I are business-minded. We own rental property. He is the hands and I am the financial mind. When you don’t think you can afford something, you obviously don’t purchase it, and you don’t take out a loan for it.”
WHAM radio talk show host Bob Lonsberry hardly needs an introduction to most readers. A native of Canisteo, Bob has lived in Mount Morris nearly 25 years and is completing his first four-year term as an elected village trustee.
Lonsberry is proposing the creation of village administrator position.
“This person would be, in effect, a chief of staff of village operations, reporting directly to the mayor and implementing the policies of the board,” Lonsberry explained. The administrator would be, “a professional whose job it would be to make sure everything is done, and done approprriately, (who would) track state regulations and law and make sure we are following them.” He or she would be another step in what has in recent times been a department-by-department professionalization of village operations.
Lonsberry is not discounting the possibility that the introduction of this new position could change the staffing configuration of the front office. On the same account, Lonsberry does not see the administrator’s salary being a burdensome line for the budget. The ideal candidate might be a person fresh out of college with top-notch accounting and business management credentials, who would see the job in Mount Morris as an excellent first rung in his or her career ladder.
In advocating for the new position, Lonsberry emphasizes he is in no way swaying from his stalwart role as an opponent of increasing taxation.
“My motto is still, ‘Keep the government off your back and out of your pocket,’ ” he said.
Lonsberry admittedly would have opposed the idea at the beginning of his term four years ago, seeing the position as an additional layer between the citizens and the village’s operations. However, four years as a trustee have made Lonsberry realize that department operations can have minds and agendas of their own, in which an administrator, on a practical basis, might intercede on the board’s behalf. In such a capacity, the administrator would be an investment towards cutting spending.
On the subject of the village’s new fire hall, Lonsberry believes the ground breaking “has got to happen soon.”
“We need to get after it and get it done,” he said. “People voted for it a long time ago. It’s our duty to do their will and get this built.”
Throughout his current term Lonsberry has been an advocate of strict speeding enforcement on the village’s main thoroughfares as a means of both keeping the village safe and generating revenue. The policy has finally gone into effect in recent months, predictably restoring the village’s old reputation as a place not to speed and producing significant new revenue. Still, in the interest of affordability, Bob is not adverse to suspending police patrols during certain times.
Lonsberry advocates restoration of a full time, trained student resource officer at Mount Morris Central School. Police Chief Mignemi has calculated an economical way to provide the service whereby duties would be shared between two retired officers. Making use of a $20,000 standing offer from county government, the remaining cost to the school district would be $14,000.
Under the auspices of a new administrator, Lonsberry sees the village getting an increasingly better handle on budgetary matters over the next four years. That handle could be manifest, he suggested, in online monthly reports accessible to the public. Government transparency might also be enhanced with podcasts of the village board meetings.
Lonsberry has two more proposals to bring the people and their government in better contact: Change in the village board meeting times from 6 to 7 p.m., giving folks who wish to attend time to get home from work and have supper, and move the public comment session from the end of the meeting to the beginning.
Making citizens who have something to say wait the entire length of the meeting “is poor customer service,” Lonsberry said.
A lifelong Democrat, Joe Corbett has resided in Mount Morris for 21 years. He and his wife, Mary Lou, have been married 18 years and have two daughters, Kristina and Elizabeth. Corbett served in the United States Marine Corps from 1973 until receiving his honorable discharge in 1979.
After his military service, Corbett obtained an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Cayuga Community College, then a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from Buffalo State. Brought up in Fort Edward, Corbett moved to Mount Morris after receiving his promotion to the rank of corrections officer sergeant and taking a job at Livingston Correctional Facility. He is retired after 25 years with State Corrections. Corbett is a former member of Mount Morris Kiwanis and a member of the Big Flats American Legion Post.
“My goal is to serve the Village of Mount Morris by governing — not ruling.,” he said. As trustee, Corbett would like to initiate the publication of a quarterly newsletter which would inform residents to the specifics of village business in detailed fashion, as opposed to the vague presentations currently appearing in the Shopper.
His budgetary goal would be to have a flat — or even reduced — tax rate. He intends to support polices promoting individual family home ownership and the creation of new residential development and the corresponding growth of the tax base.
However, the village does have an obligation to build the new firehouse, Corbett said.
“The volunteer first responders deserve a new place,” he said, noting the old Main Street location has outlived its usefulness.
Corbett further hopes to develop the village’s industrial tax base — and bring in new jobs — by marketing the presently neglected industrial park as a desirable place for business. Corbett also supports continued growth of the retail component of the village tax base, but remains cautious about tax breaks which end up being passed along to the residential property owners. Tax abatements need to be researched on a case-by-case basis and should not be a blanket policy, Corbett said.
“I’ve seen too many businesses get tax breaks, then close after the breaks end,” he advised.
Corbett and his Democratic running mates are fully opposed to the notion of hiring a new “manager” to administer the village. It would be unnecessarily expensive, they say.
“The opposition wants to consider the creation of this position. We are not in favor of this, nor would we support it,” Corbett said. “We are not a city. We have less than 3,000 people.”
In a village, the mayor should be the manager, working in cooperation with the village clerk, Corbett points out.
“The position they are proposing would be just another added tax burden,” he suggested.
Corbett and his running mates, if elected, intend to re-introduce a street and sidewalk maintenance and replacement plan which would set specific projects as goals to be accomplished over a five year period. Such a plan was theoretically adopted by the village a number of years ago, but was never put into effect.
Speaking of the campaign, Corbett said, “I’m putting my heart and soul into this because I love Mount Morris.”
“I want to serve the people.”
Geoff Pagano is a lifelong resident of Mount Morris and member of the Mount Morris Central School class of 1995. He served in the United States Marines from 1995 to 1998. Geoff and his wife, Aimee, have been married eight years and have two daughters, Gabrielle and Addison. Pagano is a member of the Mount Morris Veterans of Foreign Wars post.
Pagano’s professional career has been in telecommunications with Frontier, later a smaller Victor company, and most recently ProCom Consulting. The job put him in other cites for about six weeks of last year, but most of the time Pagano is able to work from home.
Pagano said he would be coming to the village board with no specific agenda.
“I believe serving as a trustee is a matter of doing what’s right for all the taxpayers, no matter if it’s a Democrat or Republican proposal,” he said. “It should be about what’s best for the village. You should be working together.”
He is a definite opponent of the idea of hiring a village manager. “We’re trying to save money, not spend it,” Pagano said. “It would be a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
The cost of a village manager would support the full time school resource officer which the village greatly needs, Pagano notes.
As a trustee, Pagano feels he will owe his constituents an honest answer to any question they might ask.
“And if I don’t know the answer, I’ll do the research,” he said.
“The reason I’m running is to try to make things better.”