On Thursday Canandaigua City Council debated proposals to allow the use of pesticides and herbicides at Lagoon Park and to run a joint summer recreation program with the Town of Canandaigua. Council also considered resolutions to survey cemeteries, approve the City’s Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative Plan, replace flooring and doors at a fire station, approve a pandemic operations plan, and establish a revised policy regarding the relationship between Council and the City Manager.
Councilmember Dan Unrath (Ward 2) introduced Resolution 2021-015 which proposed continuing an exemption allowing the use of pesticides and herbicides at Lagoon Park. Several community organizations, including the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Association, the Ontario and Canandaigua Master Gardeners, and the Canandaigua Botanical Society have been working to restore Lagoon Park. Part of that effort has included attempting to protect park flora from the invasive Buckthorn species.
The invasive Buckthorn species is typically controlled with pesticides. However, in 2016 the City of Canandaigua enacted a moratorium on the use of pesticides and herbicides on City-owned property. With resolution 2016-037, the City also granted the Lagoon Park Restoration Project a temporary exemption to permit the project to use pesticides and herbicides. Resolution 2021-015 was brought forth because the exemption granted by Resolution 2016-037 was expiring and some areas of Lagoon Park are still fighting the invasive Buckhorn.
Several speakers, including James Engel who coordinates the restoration project, and Stephen Lewandowski of the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Association spoke of how pesticides are the only cost-effective means of controlling Buckthorn on a property as large as the park.
Resolution 2021-015 engendered quite a bit of discussion amongst Council. Councilmember Renee Sutton (At-Large) supported extending the exemption because of the ecological damage that is caused by Buckthorn. However, Sutton wanted to make sure that the pesticides used in the project were approved for aquatic use. Engel indicated that the products he would be using were approved for aquatic use.
Councilmember Erich Dittmar (Ward 4) said that he supported the Resolution because it proposed very targeted use of pesticides that carried only a minimal risk of non-targeted flora being hurt. Dittmar also felt that the proposed pesticide use was the most effective method of addressing the Buckthorn problem.
Councilmember Steve Uebbing (At-Large) stated that the proposed exemption was how the moratorium process was supposed to work, and that based on all the information he had seen the proposed use of pesticides at Lagoon Park was appropriate.
Councilmember Thomas Lyon (At-Large) indicated that when this proposal was originally raised he had some concerns, but based on information presented to him on the topic he was convinced that pesticide use to control Buckthorn was an appropriate and necessary approach.
Councilmember Karen White (Ward 3), who was the only Councilmember to oppose the Resolution, pointed out that Council had not allocated money for the project. However, several individuals clarified that the project was being funded with donations from various community organizations and individuals.
Canandaigua resident Joel Freedman spoke to Council in opposition to Resolution 2021-015. Freedman believed that the use of Roundup pesticide at Lagoon Park had not worked in the past and would not work in the future. Freedman felt that the City should explore other treatments that did not rely on toxic chemicals. Freedman also expressed concern regarding the health impacts on City drinking water.
Freedman also stated that he thought that the project could not go forward without the approval of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) because Lagoon Park was wetlands. Kevin Olvany from the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Council clarified that the project would require DEC approval, which they granted for the 2016 use of pesticides at Lagoon Park. Olvany also believed the exemption should be approved and stated that you could see the positive results from treatment in areas of the park that were treated in 2016.
Council approved Resolution 2021-015 with only White voting no.
Council also considered two Resolutions that proposed a summer recreation program that would be run jointly by the City and Town. Sutton presented Resolution 2021-019 which sought approval of an Inter-Municipal Agreement with the Town of Canandaigua to implement the joint recreation program.
The agreement called for the Town and City to run numerous youth and adult summer recreation programs typical of programs that had been offered in previous years. The City and Town would share expenses equally, with the Town’s contribution being limited to $20,000. While the proposed agreement considered by Council was only for the 2021 recreation season, the City and Town hoped that this trial run would result in a long-term joint recreation program that might eventually lead to increased recreation opportunities for residents.
Although Sutton supported the Resolution, she wondered if the long-term proposal was predicated on Town and City residents always paying the same costs for recreation services. Sutton was troubled by language in the proposal that she felt might commit the City to an agreement regarding the same fees for everyone in future years. Other Councilors also expressed concerns about the potential for long-term arrangements without first seeing how the 2021 recreation season went.
Uebbing moved to amend the proposal to strike the “future years” provision to clarify the Council’s position that this agreement was for only 2021. The amendment passed with only Sutton voting no. After the amendment vote, Sutton clarified that she did not feel the amendment addressed her concerns regarding the proposal locking the City into an agreement regarding equal fees for City and Town residents in future years. Eventually, City Manager John Goodwin clarified to Sutton’s satisfaction that neither the proposal nor the 2021 Inter-Municipal Agreement locked in the City to any particular contract terms, including the equal fee arrangement, for future years. Council then approved the amended Resolution 2021-019 unanimously.
Councilmember James Terwiliger (At-Large) presented a companion resolution, Resolution 2021-20 to approve new fees for the summer Day Camp and Kiddie Kamp programs. This resolution was intended to establish camp fees consistent with the new recreation agreement between the City and Town. The Resolution established a $100 per child per week and $225 per week family rate for Day Camp, and a $65 per child per week rate for Kiddie Kamp. Sutton stated that she felt as if this was the type of Resolution where Council got to make a difference in the everyday lives of residents. Council approved the Resolution unanimously.
Dittmar presented Council with Resolution 2021-014 that proposed a budget amendment to fund surveying Pioneer and West Ave Cemeteries. The proposed surveys were needed because of nearby resident concerns regarding trees near the property lines of both cemeteries. West Ave Cemetery had never been surveyed and the survey of Pioneer Cemetery was out of date. The Resolution proposed a $3,800 budget amendment to fund the surveys. The Resolution was approved unanimously without debate.
Lyon introduced Resolution 2021-016 seeking approval of the City of Canandaigua’s Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative Plan. This plan was required by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s June 12, 2020, Executive Order 203 entitled “New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative”. Residents can view the entire plan at https://www.canandaiguanewyork.gov/vertical/sites/%7BA388F052-E1B1-4CA4-8527-A8BB46320BB9%7D/uploads/Plan_with_Intro_summary_and_Survey_2.23.2021.pdf.
One City resident spoke in opposition to the Resolution. This resident felt that the Canandaigua process had not included enough diversity among the people who developed the plan. He felt too many individuals in the plan development group had connections with law enforcement and that there was no representation of individuals with negative interactions with law enforcement.
Council unanimously approved Resolution 2021-016 without debate.
Councilmember Nick Cutri (Ward 1) presented Resolution 2021-017 which proposed authorizing a contract for floor and door replacement at Fire Station #1. The Resolution was brought forward because the apparatus bay flooring and pedestrian doors that access the apparatus bay at Fire Station #1 had deteriorated to the point that they needed to be replaced. The Resolution called for a contract of $374,000 for the floor replacement and $32,000 for the door replacements. The Resolution also authorized the City Manager to enter into any necessary change orders not to exceed $40,000. The City received bids from Massa Construction (Geneva, NY), and Testa Construction (Rochester, NY). The Resolution proposed awarding the contract to Massa Construction as the low bidder. Mayor Bob Palumbo stated that this project had been a long time coming and that he was glad to see it going forward. Council approved Resolution 2021-017 unanimously without debate.
White introduced Resolution 2021-018 to Council. This Resolution proposed adopting the City of Canandaigua Pandemic Operations Plan. State legislation signed by Governor Cuomo on September 7, 2020 required all public employers to develop an operations plan to deal with declared public health emergencies. The law required public employers to submit the plan by April 1, 2021. The City entitled its plan “Public Employer Health Emergency Plan”. The entire plan was attached to the Agenda for the March 4, 2021, Council meeting. Council approved the adoption of the plan unanimously without any discussion.
The final resolution of the evening was Resolution 2021-021. Uebbing stated that the Resolution called for adopting a policy regarding the relationship between Council and the City Manager. This policy was created to clarify the City Manager’s role as supervisor of all City Staff. The policy was also intended to clarify that Councilmembers could not make formal inquiries of City staff without going through the City Manager unless specifically authorized to do so by a Council vote. The policy also clarified the process for Council’s evaluation of the City Manager’s performance. Council approved the resolution with a unanimous vote after White received clarification that the policy would not prohibit Councilmembers from having informal interactions with City staff.
Todd covers local government in the Finger Lakes. He has a JD degree the Lincoln Law School of Sacramento. Send tips to [email protected].