‘UP IN THE AIR’: Fayette Supervisor highlights issues with Depot bid process (podcast)

Map of the Seneca Army Depot, located in Romulus, New York.

“We’re pretty much up in the air right now.”

Fayette Town Supervisor Cindy Lorenzetti sounded off on Tuesday’s edition of the Inside the FLX podcast highlighting a number of the issues she sees with the process that has resulted in a lease of the property.

The option to lease the 7,000 acres was not on the table as the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency moved through a ‘secret bid’ process.

When all was said and done well-over a dozen bids had been received for all, or parts of the former-Army Depot, which has set largely vacant for about two decades.

A couple businesses operate, or did operate on the site, but the IDA was looking for long-term sustainability in a plan, which would bring jobs, economic development, and most-importantly — tax revenue to the County.

The debate centered around what the valuation of the property. Due to it being vacant, and off the tax roll for so long — it hadn’t been assessed in a very long time.

South County Assessor Anne Morgan, who is working on an updated assessment for the 7,000 acres had been approached last year about evaluating the property. However, it was noted at last week’s Seneca County Board of Supervisors committee meetings that the IDA never followed through to get the updated evaluation completed before the end of 2016.

RELATED: See multiple maps of the former Seneca Army Depot

The sale of the property was advertised during the bid process, as being completed by the end of 2016.

“I thought it was a well-thought out plan. I thought we were doing the right thing. We opened it up for anyone to bid on [the Depot]. We decided as a group that Earl Martin’s bid was the best one, but then after his bid was selected — it changed in the eleventh hour,” explained Lorenzetti as she walked listeners through the process that had led to this sudden change from sale to lease.

The IDA is now planning to lease the property to Earl Martin, who owns Seneca IronWorks located in Seneca Falls. “I don’t know how it got decided — going from a sale to lease,” she continued — answering the question that many still have about the entire process.

Lorenzetti protested voting against the lease option, which was nearly-unanimously approved by the IDA board. “The supervisors aren’t happy with the situation,” she explained. “I can’t speak for others, but there’s been enough debate to know that’s how many feel,” she continued.

“Debate probably went on for a good 40 minutes,” she added — referring to last week’s committee meeting when the subject was brought up for discussion. Part of that discussion involved how the supervisors would receive updates from the IDA.

“They serve at the pleasure of the Board of Supervisors,” she recounted. “Part of the blame is on the IDA — but a lot of the blame is on the supervisors, too for not keeping them accountable.”

Lorenzetti said that moving forward — the Board of Supervisors would hear regular updates from the IDA, which would include number of PILOTS going out, how effective they were, how many jobs have been created, as well as a number of other simple metrics that taxpayers can understand.

“There’s no reason for a 10 page document,” she added — showing off the massive document released by the IDA highlighting the various projects they’ve taken on. “This has to be broken down so taxpayers can understand it.”

She also questioned the validity that the IDA couldn’t make separate sale agreements with the three individuals who had leased the property for years from the IDA. Some leased border properties, or other portions, which had never been an issue. While their bids weren’t accepted because they weren’t as all-encompassing as Martin’s plan – those who reached out to him to purchase the pieces they had leased were stunned when he asked for significantly more money than the IDA had ever asked for it.

“Everyone should attend. It’s an issue that will have an impact on everyone living in Seneca County,” she explained — talking about the public hearing scheduled for Thursday, February 9th in Romulus.

The subject of that public hearing will be the former-Army Depot. Specifically, the lease agreement will be debated, as well as a variety of other points within the process — since it has been such a contentious topic.

Watch the entire podcast in the video player above.

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