Three Republican Candidates Set for Mayoral Primary in Johnson CityPosted: Updated:
Three Republicans are facing off in a primary election for Mayor of Johnson City on September 12. Fox 40 spoke with the candidates to see where they stand on important issues in the Village.
Marty Meaney is a Johnson City Village Trustee in his first term. He was elected in November 2016 and sworn in that following January. He was also a former-firefighter in Johnson City before retiring in 2011.
Greg Deemie is the current Mayor of Johnson City after being elected to the position in November 2013. He was elected to his first two-year term as a Village Trustee in November 2010 before being appointed to the position of Mayor by the Board after Mayor Dennis Hannon resigned. In November 2012, Deemie was elected to a one-year term to finish out the rest of Hannon's term.
Richard Balles has been a Village Trustee for two decades. He has held various Committee Chair positions including on the Public Works and Parks Department. He was the acting Mayor for six months between the time Dennis Hannon resigned and Greg Deemie was appointed in 2010.
We spoke with Meaney, Deemie, and Balles about a wide array of topics ranging from public safety, blight, and bringing small businesses into the area. Here's what each of them had to say.
The Johnson City Police Department consists of 33 Full-Time Officers and is run by Chief Brent Dodge.
Deemie and Balles both say that public safety is their number one concern.
"My goal is to keep working as needed to enhance our Police Department and grow our Police Department, that is our number one priority," said Deemie. "We need to bolster up this force, we're understaffed to battle the problems and issues that we have in the village."
"Public safety is the number one concern of mine and I know it's the residents' as well," said Balles. "Part-One of my five-part plan is called 'Operation Wildcat' and what it does is reduces and prevents crime and provides protective services in our Downtown, core, and high-risk neighborhoods."
While Meaney says that merging emergency services might be a successful way to keep everyone safe and keep costs down.
"At some point, I think we need to look at merging the services with both Police and Fire, but the only way I would see that coming to fruition is if it provided a better service for the same or lower cost," said Meaney.
The Village Government is made up of 12 different Departments - Building & Codes, Clerk/Treasurer, Court, Fire, Library, Parks & Recreation, Police, Refuse, Registrar, Sewer, Streets, and Water. In 2016, Governor Cuomo urged County leaders to consolidate services that can be shared in order to save money.
Deemie and Balles hold similar viewpoints on sharing services, both are in favor of the idea.
"At this time we have nothing on the table to do that, but it's something I'm willing to look at," said Deemie.
"I'm open to a consolidation of services and sharing of services from all municipalities," said Balles.
Meaney, on the other hand, says consolidation will hurt everybody.
"I don't see diminishing the services to save money as the right way to go because everybody suffers," said Meaney.
The Binghamton - Johnson City Joint Sewage Treatment Facility, located in Vestal, was built in 1965 to treat sewage, storm water runoff, and snow melt. In 2016, construction began on the $200 million Joint Sewage Project to repair multiple parts of the facility after flooding from Tropical Storm Lee left them damaged.
Meaney and Deemie are hopeful that the new upgrades to the site will provide a better service to the public.
"We're using the footprint of the original plant which is over 50 years old that handles a lot less waste than it's handling now," said Meaney. "I think we'll see the plant will run more efficiently, more effectively, because they're bringing in new and innovative ways to handle the solid waste."
"It was built back in the mid-60's to function for the amount of properties at that time, so hopefully this new project will be able to have it function in a more efficient manner," said Deemie.
Balles says it's time to rethink how the sewage treatment plant is being operated.
"We could look at privatization of the plant," said Balles. "We've looked at that many years ago, but it really never went anywhere, but those are the kind of things that we got to start looking at and get thinking out of the box."
Binghamton University is in the process of completing a $60 million project, which will put the University's Pharmacy School on Corliss Avenue in Johnson City. It's expected to open in the Spring of 2018.
"That's going to be awesome, that's going to be a huge positive," said Meaney. "We need to get the word out to people outside of Broome County, we need to market this development and all the great changes that are coming to people throughout the land."
"In the end, there's going to be future buildings and more growth in the area," said Deemie. "It's going to be an important step into our future to create a more sustainable future for the village."
"We're going to have a lot of foot traffic from students and they're going to look for places to eat and shop and we need to have those facilities waiting for them in 2018," said Balles.
Johnson City was granted $60,000 as part of the Restore New York program by Governor Cuomo. In the past, Johnson City Officials have discussed the need to get rid of unoccupied and vacant properties in the village.
"We need to hold these absentee landlords, we need to hold their feet to the flame to maintain their structures because once blight starts, it's hard awfully hard to curtail it," said Meaney.
"We need to stop it before it becomes the blight," said Deemie. "Grab things at the beginning to be able to keep them in their homes and keep these buildings from becoming blighted."
"I'm looking to offer some incentives to homeowners that want to fix up their properties," said Balles.
In July, a report by Morningstar put the Oakdale Mall at 'imminent risk of closing' after multiple anchor stores left the area. The latest, Sears, announced it will close its doors by mid-September. The mall now has multiple vacancies that need to be filled.
"They don't feel like it's a business friendly community and we have to communicate with everybody to get the word out there that we are business friendly, we are open for changes," said Meaney. "The mall is still viable and with the influx of maybe three, four or five thousand extra students, that's really going to help."
"It all comes down to creating an environment that has people that want to come to the Village," said Deemie. "As I always say, you only get one chance to make a first impression."
"We need to get engaged with the Oakdale Mall management to see if we can assist them in trying to find retail businesses, small businesses," said Balles. "It's important to get storefronts filled because those anchor stores that left, so we've got three key anchor stores and we need to find a way to fill those empty storefronts over the next year or so."
The primary election will take place from noon until 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 12. You can find more information on the election here.