Photo by Tom Rivers: These three candidates are running together under the “Citizens for Change” party in Barre in the upcoming November election. From left include Kerri Richardson for town councilwoman, Jerry Solazzo for town supervisor and Cindy Burnside for town councilwoman.
BARRE – Three candidates for the Barre Town Board are running together under the independent “Citizens for Change” party with a goal to change the dynamics on the Town Board and keep out a proposed wind turbine project.
Jerry Solazzo, a former town zoning and code enforcement officer, will run as town supervisor against incumbent Sean Pogue, who has been endorsed by the Republican Party.
Kerri Richardson, leader of Clear Skies Above Barre, is running for town councilwoman along with Cindy Burnside, a local real estate agent.
The three candidates held an open house last week at Hoag Library. They stated their opposition to Apex Clean Energy’s proposal for 33 wind turbines in Barre. Heritage Wind would include turbines that peak at over 650 feet high.
“People feel it’s a done deal and it’s not,” Solazzo, a retired Medina technology teacher, said at the open house. “It’s going to be a long hard fight, but we’re up for it. We have good people running. We need to change the makeup of the board.”
Solazzo said many of the town officials have conflicts of interest with the project, either having a lease with Apex or having other family and friends that stand to benefit from leases.
Richardson, in her role with Clear Skies, has asked the state attorney general’s office to look into the issue to see if the town officials have conflicts of interest and should remove themselves from any discussion or review of the project.
The candidates said the Town Board needs to better communicate with residents, give them ample time to speak during meetings, and work on other pressing community issues, including the need for high-speed Internet.
“We want to make sure everybody knows what’s going on,” said Richardson, who works as an agriculture teacher in Batavia for the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership. “We’re running on better communication with the residents.”
Richardson also has been endorsed by the Conservative Party. Solazzo is a registered Democrat and Burnside is a registered Republican.
Richardson said the three candidates have put aside party differences for a focus on a better Barre.
Solazzo said he supports the Barre Fire Company’s push for a new firehall, which has been rejected three times in a public referendum. He believes the community would support the new firehall if they fully understood the challenges with the current firehall and the benefits of a new building. Barre residents last voted on the firehall on Sept. 12, 2017, with the Barre Fire District seeking permission to borrow $2.52 million for a new firehall with a community center on Route 98. The proposition was voted down, 217-212.
“Truthfully, I’m all in favor of it,” Solazzo said about the project. “It’s just a matter of working things out to get it.”
The candidates say Barre’s distinction with the highest town tax rate in Orleans County at $9.18 per $1,000 is a deterrent to attracting more residents, and strains the wallets of residents, especially elderly on fixed incomes.
Solazzo said he sees the large turbines as making the situation worse, depressing property values.
Burnside, the real estate agent, said she turned down a lease to have two turbines on her property. She said the rural landscape is an asset for many people who want to live in the country.
The town, however, needs to work to make the community more appealing for younger families, and she said high-speed Internet is needed.
While Richardson is opposed to the turbines, she said the town needs to negotiating for significant revenue with the project, with the majority of the funds going to Barre and not being diluted in a shared agreement with the school district and Orleans County.
Richardson said she opposes the state takeover of having the final say in large-scale turbine and solar projects. A state siting board will give the final decision. However, Richardson said Barre can pass its own local laws to ensure protections for residents and the environment.
“I truly love Barre and the right-to-farm environment we have,” she said.
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