By Jann Wiswall
Voters in many villages across the state go to the polls on Tuesday, March 15 to cast their ballots for elected officials.
In the Village of Ellicottville, which has plus-or-minus 260 registered voters, every vote will count as residents decide which of two long-time members of the community will supervise the business of the village for the next four years and shape its future. Voters also will elect two members of the board of trustees.
Current Mayor Charles Coolidge is running for reelection to a fourth consecutive four-year term. He is running as a Republican and as a “People’s Choice” candidate.
He is being challenged by former Town Supervisor John Burrell, who is running as a “New Village” candidate.
Two incumbent board members, Republicans Patra Lowes and Bob Brogcinski, are running for reelection. “New Village” candidate Joseph DiPasquale also is running for the board. Candidates with the two highest vote totals will prevail.
The election takes place on Tuesday, March 15 at the Ellicottville Town Center (the former Cornell Cooperative Extension Service building). Polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m.
The Ellicottville Times asked each mayoral candidate about their reasons for running and what they hope to achieve. The interviews are organized alphabetically.
John Burrell served as town supervisor for eight years and served as mayor of the village in the 1990s. He has volunteered as a firefighter for 51 years and an ambulance driver for 41 years. He worked in his family’s Burrell Cutlery business until it closed in 2006, and with J. D. Northrup Construction, Inc.
Burrell believes his government experience, community service and fresh ideas make him the best choice for mayor. He is running on three platform issues.
The first is to foster the tourism-driven economy of the Village. He feels that the job of the village board is to govern what the village is now and what it will be in the future, not what it once was. To that end, he believes the mayor and board must be responsive to the voters (those who are year-round residents) as well as to the non-voters (those who own properties and pay taxes but cannot vote).
“I will work to stimulate our tourism economy from every angle in order to keep it healthy,” he said.
Burrell’s second platform issue is to focus on inter-municipality consolidation of services. “We have to find creative ways to do things for less money,” he said. “We don’t all need the same special equipment,” he said as an example. “Wherever practical, municipalities should share.”
Finally, Burrell plans to significantly improve the parking situation in the village. He said the issue has been a source of frustration for many years, but the village board has done little to address it. Burrell believes parking can be relieved “at minimal cost to the village” and promises to work diligently to get part of the solution completed in his first year as mayor.
In addition to addressing these issues, Burrell believes his experience with municipal budgets, financial reporting and audits will be an asset to the village board and the public. He noted that past village budgets were not formatted to state standards and he discovered some discrepancies between budgeted vs. actual revenues and expenses. While the bottom line was not affected, Burrell is concerned that decisions may have been made without all the necessary information.
“The $1.9 million village budget is in the hands of just a few people. It needs to be accurate,” he said.
Coolidge grew up in Ellicottville, worked with the Cattaraugus County Department of Public Works throughout his career, and has served as Village mayor for the past 18 years after serving for one year on the village board of trustees.
Coolidge points to his track record as mayor and to the projects he wants to see completed as his reasons for running for another term and asking for your vote.
Over the past several years, Coolidge has overseen a variety of infrastructure improvements, notably the design, planning, funding and construction of a new wastewater treatment plant. He notes that the Village was able to secure two significant grants and a no-interest loan to offset the costs of the state-mandated plant, ensuring that residents will not see an increase in their sewer bills as a result of the project.
Coolidge also notes completion of a number of renovations/improvements at the village park, including new roofs on all park buildings, new picnic tables and new playground equipment.
The next infrastructure project the mayor plans for the village is constructing a new roof for the Rt. 242 reservoir. Coolidge said engineers are already looking at that project. He hopes to be able to oversee this project in his next term.
“We have to keep up the infrastructure or the village will fail.”
Regarding sharing services, Coolidge says that the village has always worked with other municipalities. “We were doing that long before the state thought of it,” he said, recalling plowing town roads on his way to plow county roads while working for the DPW. He also said there have been and continue to be agreements between the town of Ellicottville and the Village to share costs, services and labor.
Coolidge has and will continue to work on maintaining the beauty and charm of the Village in order to retain its unique identity, bring in new businesses and attract more people to the town to live, work and raise their families.
“We have a terrific school and community. We want to see more people move here and get involved,” he said.
“I’m a doer,” he said. “If I say I’m going to do something, I will. I’ve always been everybody’s mayor – whether you voted for me or not, whether you live here or not.”