HOLLEY – Village residents have choices on Tuesday when they go to the polls to elect a mayor and two trustees. There are six candidates running for three positions on the Village Board. Those candidates shared their views and goals for the village during a candidate forum on Wednesday evening at the Holley Junior-Senior High School Auditorium. The event was sponsored by the Lake Country Pennysaver and Orleans Hub.
The incumbents – Mayor Brian Sorochty and trustees Connie Nenni and Kevin Lynch – see great progress in the village in the past two years with Holley securing grants for new sidewalks and water infrastructure, as well as a planning grant to help redevelop the downtown and bolster the economic, housing and recreational opportunities in the village.
Sorochty sees the $17 million renovation of the old Holley High School into 41 apartments for seniors and the village offices as a major victory for the village. Construction will start in the fall and the project should be complete within two years.
The soon-to-start improvements in the village will show potential developers and businesses that Holley is headed in the right direction, Sorochty said.
“One of the best things we can do is show that we’re a community on the move,” Sorochty told about 75 people at the candidate forum.
Shawn O’Mara, a candidate for mayor, sees a lot of empty storefronts, as well as the recent closures of Holley’s only bank and grocery store. He said he would push to find another bank and grocery store for the community. He also said the village suffers from deteriorating roads and sidewalks.
“I have determination,” he said. “I can think on my feet and get results.”
Sorochty works as Vice President of Engineering for an engineering/construction company, overseeing 35 employees.
O’Mara is a Gates police officer. He has worked 25 years in law enforcement, including the beginning of his career with the Holley Police Department.
The incumbent trustees – Nenni and Lynch – said the current board has put in the hard work to have Holley positioned for success, with grants for sidewalks and water infrastructure. The old high school redevelopment also was years in the making.
“We’ve definitely made a lot of progress but there is more to do,” Nenni said. “We’ve been working hard to transform this village with multi-million-dollar projects. You’ll see and feel every bit of them when they are done.”
Connie Nenni, left, answers a question during the candidate forum on Wednesday. Other trustee candidates include Alexa Downey, Robyn Schubmehl and Kevin Lynch.
Nenni currently works as secretary to the Holley school district superintendent. She previously was Holley’s village clerk-treasurer. She has written grants for the village concert series, and helped rally the community to support the sidewalk grant, which will replace about a third of sidewalks in Holley.
Kevin Lynch is retired after 36 years from the Canal Corp., including about 20 years in Pittsford as the chief lock operator.
Lynch said the village government can be daunting to understand for a newcomer on the board. He is currently Holley’s deputy mayor and said he is very familiar with the staff and duties of the Electric Department, Department of Public Works and the Clerk’s Office. He said he is proud of Holley’s recent successes, especially with the redevelopment of the old school. He was a member of the last graduating class in the building.
Alexa Downey works as a teacher’s assistant in prekindergarten. She is a Brooklyn native who sees lots of potential for Holley as a historic canal town, especially if the storefronts can be filled.
She said she would bring a positive presence to the board and would be active in the community, getting resident feedback. She is currently co-president of the Holley PTSA and a volunteer with the Sports Boosters.
Robyn Schubmehl works as a supervisor and paralegal for a foreclosure firm in Medina. She said the Village Board would benefit from fresh ideas. She said she has the commitment and dedication to be an asset to the board.
“Everyone brings something to the table,” she said. “We need to work together cohesively.”
O’Mara, Schubmehl and Downey are running as a team. They congratulated the current board for the success with grants and projects, but said more work is needed, especially with sidewalks and the deteriorating road conditions.
Sorochty, Nenni and Lynch also cited efforts to maintain services without raising taxes. The village has contracts with the Village of Albion to run Holley’s sewer plant and also for leadership in the police department. Roland Nenni serves as both Holley’s and Albion’s police chief.
Sorochty said the arrangements have resulted in superior service for Holley and at much-reduced cost than hiring full-time personnel for the positions.
O’Mara said more consolidation of village government would keep taxes from rising. But Sorochty and Lynch said Holley is running a “bare bones” staff. The shared services approach is the best way to preserve services with local control, without being too costly for the village, they said.
Michael Bonafede served as moderator of the forum, which was attended by about 75 people.
The candidates were asked many questions during the forum, including whether the police department should be dissolved, how to stabilize taxes, whether the village should have a full-time administrator, how Holley can best capitalize on the canal and other topics.
None of the candidates favored dissolving the village police force and having the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office assume the work.
O’Mara said Holley is start for many in law enforcement and the new officers prove their dedication to the community. Sorochty also said the current board has made keeping a 24-7 police presence a priority.
None of the candidates want to see Holley hire a full-time administrator. They all said Holley is too small and shouldn’t be adding positions that would increase the burden on taxpayers.
Some villages in other counties have full-time administrators. But the candidates said Holley has enough staff to keep the village government working.
Sorochty said a rumor went around the village that an administrator position would be created.
“It’s false,” he said. “It’s absolutely ridiculous. The village is too small.”
The canal park is one of the village’s assets, with a gazebo for concerts, boat tie-ins and camping sites along the canal in Holley. O’Mara said more docking and expanded amenities could draw more boaters and kayakers to Holley.
The candidates were asked if a kayak and boat launch should be pursued near the lift bridge. Sorochty said there could be grant funding available for that. But Lynch, a former Canal Corp. employee, said he doubted the Canal Corp. would support that because there is already a boat launch a mile east of Holley.
Sorochty said clearing out an original canal bed, the only section west of Rochester, could be a tourism draw and a source of pride for the community. Orleans County officials are interested in helping to remove trees and brush from that original canal bed this fall, Sorochty said.
The candidates were also asked about code enforcement, including the possibility of county-wide code enforcement, rather than each town and village doing the service. That might require a uniform code for all the municipalities, or code officers being familiar with varying codes in towns and villages.
Schubmehl and Downey both said the community needs to have fair code enforcement. Right now there is a perception code enforcement picks on some people.
“I want to make sure code enforcement is fair and truly look out for Holley and not have another agenda,” Downey said.
Schubmehl said, “Code enforcement needs to be fair across the board.”
The candidates were also asked about the controversial tree clearing along the northern side of the Erie Canal. There is concern trees could be cut down on the south side near Holley’s Canal Park and the waterfalls. Sorochty said Canal Corp. officials have no plans of removing those trees. But if they did in the future, the candidates said Holley should hire a lawyer and pursue an injunction, like Perinton, Brighton and Pittsford did to halt the project.
“If those trees come down you’ll lose the beauty of the canal,” O’Mara said.
The candidates were asked how many village meetings they have attended in the past two years. O’Mara, Downey and Schubmehl all said they haven’t been to a Village Board meeting. Lynch has been to them all, while Sorochty and Nenni have near-perfect attendance.
The election is from noon to 9 p.m. on Tuesday at the Village Office.
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