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Upcoming Owego Mayoral Election Sparks Debate

In just over a week, Village of Owego voters will decide who will be their next mayor. Fox 40 looked into an issue at the center of the race.

The mayoral race comes down to two parties. One party is Rebuild Owego with incumbent mayor Kevin Millar. The other is the Taxpayers First party with current Village Trustee, and businessman, Steve May running for mayor.

Property taxes and the Village budget are both issues the candidates face, but one big debate has to do with the Village Police Department.

"I want to continue having a fully-staffed, fully-functional police department," said Millar.

According to May, the Taxpayer First party does not not want to get rid of police and fire departments. He said it wants to straighten out Village finances and give residents more of a say. However, he feels its views are being taken the wrong way.

"I think it's being misconstrued again. This party wants to know what the people want," said May.

The Owego Police Benevolent Association doesn't see it that way. It took out a full-page ad in the Owego Pennysaver, backing Millar and the three Rebuild Owego Trustee candidates. In the ad, it stated that the Owego Taxpayers First party are leading the fight to abolish the Owego Police Department.

“If they can show me someplace, in any minutes, in any board meeting, or any meeting where any board member wanted to abolish the OPD, I would like them to bring it forward,” said May.

The police department told Fox 40 that the issue is political and they wished to refrain from commenting.

However, the controversy over what to do with Owego's public safety, including the fire department and EMS, is nothing new.

Gerry Turecek, an Owego resident, and past Village board member, said he has heard about it since 1962. Turecek added that while he didn’t know who he would vote for on election day, he knows neither candidate will put an end to the Village’s decades-long debate.

"It's going to be a festering issue from now until years from now," said Turecek.

All Village residents are eligible to vote if they are registered with the Tioga County Board of Elections.

According to the Board of Elections, out of more than 2,000 registered voters, 591 people voted in the 2014 mayoral election and 563 people voted in the 2015 election.

This is the first year the Village of Owego will be using electronic ballots. Voting will go from noon to 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 15, at the Owego Central Fire Station.