Tom Burrall of C. S. Burrall & Son Inc. looks to rebuild Ward 1 under the Democratic Party.
As the current vice president of the Geneva Business Improvement District, a member on the board of directors for Finger Lakes Health and the Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association as well as a commissioner on Geneva Historic Districts Commission, Burrall believes that he ready to represent Ward 1 after “repeated conversations and asks” to run for City Council.
“I would like to bring to the table more open communication with all walks of people that are interested in being part of the process,” Burrall said.
Burrall was quick to share that the key issue in his ward seems to be the presence of Hobart and William Smith college students, where the campus prominently resides within Ward 1.
“The key issues in my ward from standing on a lot of porches is what are going to do about those darn college kids,” he said.
While many residents informed Burrall about their concerns about college students, he also mentioned that he can simply walk across the street and find that they are not bothersome for others.
Burrall admits to learning about how the Colleges and particularly Rob Flowers has contributed in establishing better neighborhood and community relations and believes that all of the work has not been public enough.
“I think it should be because there are some noisemakers, both residents and on the other side with the students and I think they can be addressed with not a whole lot of effort but we just have to be involved in the process,” Burrall said.
One of those steps in ensuring that the Colleges are friendly especially with its Ward 1 neighbors is through requiring students that live off-campus to attend a mandatory meeting in the fall.
“I didn’t realize until a couple of taxpayers advised me that there is a mandatory meeting in the fall for all students who are living off-campus,” Burrall said.
Burrall also briefly outlined his familiarity with a neighborhood complaint process to address and record disturbances caused by student housing.
With the recent reporting by Jim Meaney of the Geneva Believer, he indicated that the Colleges own 13 properties along Seneca Lake on South Main Street, which are collectively evaluated at an estimated $7,309,000; and Burrall weighed-in on whether the Colleges are obligated to financially contribute more to the city through additional taxes or an increase in the PILOT.
“The college is a business. The municipality is also a business. The college knows the income that it needs to generate their services. The municipality also knows the income or taxes that they need to provide the services to run our community. If an exempt institution can help us achieve those goals, then the municipality can also help the exempt institution in achieving their goals,” Burrall said.
While the annual PILOT allocation is considered a start for Burrall, he expresses that it “needs to be continued” but also balances his comments by considering how the Colleges contributes beyond offering payment in lieu of taxes.
“People do not realize that. Oh, the college is getting away with murder. Oh, they don’t pay taxes; and of course, that’s not true because they also pay property tax right now on some properties that they own in addition to what they’re giving the community in the form of the $200,000,” Burrall added.
Burrall was also not shy in dismantling all of South Main Street’s parking problems.
“The South Main Street crosswalks are horrible, of course. The signage is not proper. It is inconsistent as far as the amount of space between the crosswalk and first parked-car. They’re not lit. Night is partly dangerous, especially when there is parking on both sides,” he said.
Aside from criticizing the infrastructural faults of South Main Street, Burrall ponders how college students may contribute and accentuate the conflict more broadly.
“Perhaps the school is giving-out more parking permits for students. I don’t know how many students are allowed to own a car and to keep that car on-campus but perhaps that’s something that should be looked at,” Burrall added.
Burrall also shared insights about the Trinity Church variance and how it intrinsically impacts his community in Ward 1.
“I was intimately involved in the process as a commissioner on the Geneva Historic Districts and Structures Commission cause we were asked to chime-in on the process and whether it was the right thing for our neighborhood,”
“The Trinity Church situation was a sign of broken government on many fronts,” he said.
Burrall does not think that the decision makers initially recognized how the variance decision sticks with the property and stays indefinitely regardless of future occupants even within a residential neighborhood.
“Rezoning of Trinity Church was in direct conflict with the Comprehensive Plan that took years to develop in our community,” Burrall said.
Burrall mentioned that the process of evaluating the variance “failed on so many levels,” especially from a business perspective.
“Quite frankly, it was just a process that was actually insulting to the taxpayer of the community, not a Ward 1 resident,” he said.
Although the Trinity Church controversy remains in limbo, Burrall is personally “hoping things will be overturned.”
Burrall’s greatest goal for Geneva is based-on “getting people to work together as much as they can to rise the tide of all of Geneva and the decisions that come about it or before it.”
“Our town should not be governed by six councilors and a couple of at-large candidates, and a mayor and a city manager,” Burrall added.
Community engagement is crucial to Burrall, emphasizing that “being involved in local decisions is key.”
The core tenets of his platform: accessible, approachable and connected, define his ability to govern.
Burrall also admitted that he is not afraid to throw some curveballs at his own team as long as he is “doing the right thing.”
“I am connected through organizations. I am connected through history. I am connected through all sorts of decisionmakers in both the town and city of Geneva,” Burrall said.
“I think I have a value that is difficult to surpass,” he concluded.
Listen to the entire conversation with Burrall below:
More from ‘Candidate Snapshot’ series exclusively on FingerLakes1.com:
– Valentino brings experience from City Council to Mayor’s race (Mayor)
– Pitifer takes life journey onto Geneva mayoral campaign trail (Mayor)
– Gomez vows to fight for residents as campaign continues (Ward 1)
– Burrall for focuses on rebuilding in city council campaign (Ward 1)
– Bill Pealer Jr. takes life of experiences on campaign trail (Ward 2)
– Regan brings non-profit experience to the campaign trail (Ward 3)
– Cass brings past council, mayoral experience to campaign (Ward 3)
– Camera focuses on bringing creativity, experience to Geneva City Council (Ward 4)
– Evelyn Buisch looks to return City to former glory (Ward 4)
– Salamendra targets change through more than activism (Ward 5)
– Bryan Housel brings public safety background to campaign for Geneva City Council (Ward 5)
– Pruett takes independent approach to Geneva City Council race (Ward 6)
– Juanita Aikens looks to bring better representation to Geneva City Hall (Ward 6)
– Anthony Noone looks to bring experience, energy to Geneva City Council (At-Large)
Editor’s Note: Special thanks to WEOS and WHWS Station Manager Greg Cotterill for sharing Geneva Candidate Snapshots with FingerLakes1.com.
– By Gabriel Pietrorazio
An undergraduate student at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Pietrorazio has written for the Town Times of Watertown, Connecticut and Finger Lakes Times in Geneva, New York. He’s currently a reporter for FL1 News, and can be reached at [email protected].