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Schmitter coasts to win as Seneca Falls Town Supervisor; Dyson and Puylara gain four-year seats on town board

  • / Updated:
  • Peter Mantius 

Frank Schmitter, a 64-year-old former state trooper, cruised to victory Tuesday over incumbent Michael Ferrara for Seneca Falls town supervisor in a race with implications for Seneca Meadows Inc., the state’s largest landfill.

DiSanto Propane (Billboard)

Incumbent Republican Dawn Dyson, 59, and Democrat Jackson Puylara, 23, won four-year terms on the five-member town board in a race that saw heavy spending for Republican candidates by a political action committee funded by SMI’s parent company, Waste Connections Inc.

The PAC, Responsible Solutions for New York, spent more money than all the candidates combined to fund colorful campaign mailers on behalf of Dyson and Wendy Crane.

Those efforts weren’t enough to carry Crane, a 39-year-old dental hygienist, who lost to Puylara by 21 votes. Crane did edge incumbent Democrat Steve Churchill, 70, by 50 votes.

Schmitter, a registered Republican who works as an investigator for the Seneca County District Attorney, had defeated Ferrara in the Republican primary earlier this year. Schmitter also ran on the Democratic Party line after Churchill nominated him as that party’s candidate in July.

“I thank everyone for their support and look forward to getting started working for the town and helping people with their problems,” Schmitter said last night. Ferrara called to congratulate him.

Ferrara’s efforts to win approval of a non-binding community host agreement with the landfill stirred controversy in the final weeks of the campaign. 

Both Schmitter and Puylara expressed skepticism about the HCA, which would pay the town up to $10 million a year. Schmitter said the agreement did not sufficiently compensate the town and lacked enforcement provisions for odor violations.

Ferrara had negotiated the deal with his brother and a small group that excluded Churchill, the board’s only Democrat. Churchill has been the board’s most vocal opponent of the landfill’s bid to renew its state permit to expand and operate through 2040.

Dyson voted to table the draft HCA at one October board meeting. But at the next meeting she provided the decisive vote in favor.

Although Dyson won more votes than the three other town board candidates, she ran the quietest campaign. She was the only one of the four who did not sit for a taped interview with Finger Lakes1 or submit a candidate questionnaire to the Finger Lakes Times. The town website says works at the Northeast College of Health and Science in Seneca Falls.

Puylara is a 2021 graduate of Ithaca College with a bachelor’s degree in business who works in sales for Waterloo Container, which is located directly across the highway from the landfill.

“With the discovery of the cancer clusters in the area, I think there needs to be a further look into that before any expansion permit is granted (to the landfill),” Puylara told the Finger Lakes Times.

RSNY, the political action committee funded by the landfill’s parent, used a photo of Seneca Falls instead of Waterloo in its mailer sent to Waterloo residents.

Both Schmitter and Puylara stressed other issues besides the landfill, including the need for water and sewer upgrades, road improvements, support for housing and recognizing the Cayuga Nation.

RSNY, the PAC funded by Texas-based Waste Connections, sent at least three rounds of campaign flyers to Seneca Falls residents. None mentioned the landfill, but instead claimed Republicans would limit taxes while Democrats would raise them.

The landfill straddles the towns of Seneca Falls and Waterloo, and the PAC also sent out flyers on behalf of the two Republican candidates for the Waterloo town board, Michael Pfeiffer and Bob Lotz. 

They easily defeated Democrat Ted Young, who won 20.5% of the vote, compared to Pfeiffer’s 40.6% and Lotz’ 38.9%.

The mailer sent to Waterloo residents that said Pfeiffer and Lotz would “protect Waterloo’s future” used a picture of downtown Seneca Falls instead of Waterloo and misspelled Pfeiffer’s name.