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Cortland mayoral candidates face off at forum

CORTLAND – The gloves were off as Cortland mayoral hopefuls Chuck Lanning and Russ Stokes went up against the incumbent, Bob Seyller, during a public forum Wednesday at the Lions Club in Cortland.

The forum, moderated by DeKalb County Board member Mark Pietrowski Jr. from Cortland, gave a full house of Cortland residents the opportunity to ask questions about the biggest issues facing the town and how each candidate plans to resolve them.

One of the hot topics was whether a town administrator was necessary in Cortland.

Although Seyller said the current administrator’s contract would not be extended, both Lanning and Stokes said they thought the position should not have been created in the first place.

Stokes said there is no need to pay $125,000 a year for the town and department heads to be micromanaged.

“I share a lot of ideas with Russ,” said Lanning. “This administrator is history.”

Another issue the candidates debated was the Waste Management landfill expansion.

Lanning said the County Board did not inform him and the board of trustees of the landfill expansion until after it had already been approved.

“We didn’t know that landfill expansion was coming,” said Lanning. “I don’t believe we stand a chance.”

Seyller said when he approached the County Board, they had no desire to hear the town’s concerns.

He said he was able to negotiate a $1 million deal with Waste Management if the town would allow the expansion. Waste Management would also provide the town with extra water monitoring and litter patrols, he said.

But Stokes defended the County Board and said all of their decisions were made in open meetings. He was more concerned about the Waste Management deal, about which the public should’ve been informed, he said.

“That just kind of rubs me the wrong way,” he said.

All three candidates talked about the future of Cortland and where they hoped to see it in 10 years.

Seyller said the vision for a more developed Cortland is already in motion, but in a modest form in that the town is slowly expanding toward Interstate 88.

“Our areas of community growth are going to be in small pockets,” he said.

Seyller said there was no need for the town to lobby for large retailers like Walmart and Best Buy when there are already some in the area.

Stokes said he would like to expand commercially toward I-88 while still keeping the residents of Cortland in mind and not affecting the rural residential areas.

Stokes said he would like to form an economic planning commission of volunteers to see where the best opportunities for new businesses are.

Lanning said he, too, would like to receive input from other residents and officials.

Seyller said although the state has made it harder to bring businesses to Cortland and other towns, he hopes to be able to entice businesses by competing with the surrounding communities who can offer incentives.

At the end of the night, all candidates made a final statement encouraging residents to vote April 9.

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