Apparently, the town/village consolidation study conducted by the Center for Governmental Research was intended as the local equivalent of a show trial in support of dissolving the village. It was to provide supporters of dissolution with a heavy stack of papers confirming the many presumed benefits of eliminating the Village of Cobleskill. That the study actually failed to provide any solid, compelling arguments for dissolution, and actually recommended becoming a city, seems to matter very little, if at all, to a majority of the Village Board who have chosen to selectively interpret the study and, with blinders firmly in place, feverishly rush toward dissolution of the village, as it always intended to in the first place.
To those of us who have followed village affairs closely over the past three years and have watched numerous developers unsuccessfully request village water service for projects located outside the village, it is obvious that this is the real impetus behind the push for consolidation. Village officials may attempt to throw sand in your eyes by telling you consolidation will save money and increase efficiency. But this is not true and THEY KNOW IT! The truth is, this attempt to consolidate the village into the town is essentially a smash-and-grab operation to plunder the village’s water and sewer services in order to fuel growth benefitting only a handful of developers.
Additionally, the move would consolidate all local planning and zoning functions in the hands of Republican-appointed members of the town planning board and zoning board of appeals. These people will be tripping over each other to accommodate companies like Lowes and the Shad Point mystery manufacturer. Dreams of a rebirth of Main Street would be just as shattered as the windows of the Newberry Square building.
The move to dissolve is currently being led by a three-person majority on the Board of Trustees consisting of ultra-conservative developer Mark Galasso, indicted felon Robert LaPietra (recently elected despite pending felony charges) and curiously enough Mayor Mike Sellers, a member of the Green Party who used to think that this community mattered.
When it comes to this issue, the Board of Trustees is operating in an ethical black hole. Both Mark Galasso and Bob LaPietra stand to benefit personally if the Village is dissolved. Almost two years ago Galasso requested that water service from the Warnerville Water District be extended to his company Lancaster Development, but that request was denied by the Village Board of Trustees. Does anyone here seriously think Roger Cohn and the Republicans on the Town Board will say no to Galasso or, for that matter, go out of their way to reconstitute the Village’s tighter planning and code enforcement regime? The latter of course being a prime source of Bob LaPietra’s headaches with regards to his illegally rented apartments.
But behind Galasso and LaPietra there is a handful of developers and bought politicians who want to get the village’s water flowing so that they can rev up development throughout the eastern half of the town.
Frankly, it would only be appropriate for Galasso to recuse himself from voting for consolidation given that his company, Lancaster Development, stands to benefit directly.
I would also like to know why Mayor Sellers is going along with this scheme which will only lead to unchecked development (read: sprawl) in the town causing Downtown Cobleskill to dry up that much faster. As a member of the Green Party you might think Sellers would want to encourage smart growth and sound development practices and stand up to blatant corruption and conflicts of interest in local government.
If Mayor Sellers doesn’t wake up to the brazen corruption underlying this consolidation scheme and distance himself from Galasso and LaPietra, village residents may wake up one morning to find that their community has been broken into and picked clean by thieves in the night.