Two sides on Fredonia vote
By MARC RUCKMAN
Having been a village trustee for only two years, I continue to be amazed at the time it takes to resolve situations.
For instance, a resolution was passed last summer about treated village water running off Route 83 for three years. After buying gravel to fix areas washed away and contacting village officials repeatedly, the homeowner said, “You know what? They wear you down so I just gave up.” The water is still running despite some attempts to fix the problem.
When a question was raised over liability concerns that could impact the village financially, the vague “solution” had something to do with a long-term friendship between a village official and the person alleged to be in violation of village laws.
A resident who feels he has been unduly harassed by building inspectors asks why on village time, a building inspector is called off a job to do a personal inspection on a house that a family member of a village employee was considering buying.
Executive sessions, by law, are reserved for specific discussions that sometimes appear to be called to avoid public or press scrutiny. Trustees have even been asked to stay after the press has gone to find out where they stand on an issue. Transparency should be a given at all levels of government.
Selective code enforcement remains an issue. Property owners, trustees and even Planning Board officers who ask questions or voice concerns about buildings on Canadaway Street, Clinton Avenue, first floor apartments on Main Street and road repair work on Orchard Street should not expect to receive next-day citations for high grass (again, selective) and/or inspection of their rental properties. They should also expect the official being questioned to respond without “anger, insult, or refusal to participate” in a meeting.
Despite my role as a trustee, I have been denied answers to questions by constituents. Village officials should be accountable to board members. I have been questioned about conflicts of interest when a building inspector for a nearby municipality does extensive work on Fredonia properties before obtaining a building permit or being reviewed by the Planning Board. I have also been questioned about conflict of interest when the village attorney represents the village building inspector on purchasing property inside the village.
Finally, I will be questioned about my motives in writing this letter. My answer: A village election will be Monday and people should know they have a right to ask questions. A few months after my own election as a trustee, I tried asking some of these questions. From being told (perhaps in a joking way) to “behave” by the village attorney, to hearing on a speaker phone in the village administrator’s office that “I am a problem” to being taken to court because I won’t let a building inspector who, in front of a witness in Village Hall, threatened to “punch me in the face,” inspect my property. I have essentially been told, don’t rock the boat. I have always been in compliance with village inspections and agreed to inspection by someone outside the village.
We have a great village that deserves public officials who operate openly and fairly. Constituents always have a right to question situations and decisions without worrying about consequences. New ideas, new people, and new solutions should always be welcome.
It has been a difficult two years as your trustee. With your help new board members can assist me in making the changes needed to move forward. I trust Mike Vinciguerra and Mary Jane Starks will offer the most for our progress.
Marc Ruckman is a Fredonia village trustee.