Aurora election Issues: Bridges, culverts and sewer district debt - The Buffalo News
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Aurora election Issues: Bridges, culverts and sewer district debt

This season’s Town of Aurora election has two Republican Committee-endorsed board candidates applying political theater to their concerns about bridges and water bond refinancing as they go after spots held by a pair of incumbent Republicans.

Earlier this summer postcards from the Republican Committee side of the ticket read: “CAUTION – UNSAFE BRIDGES IN EAST AURORA … LETS KEEP OUR CHILDREN SAFE!” A more recent card had a black-and-white photo of children in the midst of the “London Bridge is falling down” nursery rhyme with the caption: “AURORA BRIDGES falling down ...”

The postcards support committee-endorsed candidates David Majka and Chris Lane, who are challenging incumbents Jolene Jeffe and Susan Friess. The women are running their own campaign with Jim Bach, a Town Board member running for supervisor.

Before Labor Day, this trio, running without committee endorsement, mailed out a rebuttal to the bridge postcards. It began with a quote from Thomas Jefferson – “Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” – and ended with the names of 240 local supporters.

All the candidates have won endorsements from the secondary Conservative and Independence parties, a move that will protect everyone from elimination Tuesday.

This year’s contentious tone seems unusual to Jeffe, the outgoing supervisor aiming for a board seat. “I refuse to actively participate with the direction this campaign has taken,” she said.

Jeffe, a former human resource manager, is finishing her second two-year supervisor term and is seeking a four-year board seat. She joins Friess, a stay-at-home mom and former systems engineer making a bid for a second four-year term. Bach, the deputy supervisor and a towing company owner who has served four years on the board, wants to be the new supervisor.

In the last few months they have listened, along with residents at board meetings, to the opposition candidates who championed their issues from the meeting room microphone.

For Majka, it was the condition of bridges and culverts. About three need an estimated $750,000 worth of attention, including one on Whaley with crumbling concrete and another with a metal plate covering an opening near the sidewalk on North Grove Street.

While attorneys for the town and village have been meeting to sort out which municipality is responsible for their upkeep and how costs should be covered, Majka is frustrated with the hold up. “It just amazes me that it took so long,” Majka said.

Majka, a sales manager at the Roycroft Inn, drives his daughter to preschool near the bridge on Brooklea Drive. While the state Department of Transportation has put a yellow-flag notice on it suggesting municipal inspection, but not requiring repair, the committee candidates are more impatient for action.

Majka joins Lane, an executive recruiter for State Farm insurance, with concerns about the stalled refinancing of a $14 million collection of local water district bonds with interest rates ranging from 4.12 to 4.75 percent.

“It’s more expensive now to borrow money,” said Lane, father of three, board member of Women’s Business Center at Canisius College who lost a bid for Assembly last year.

While he doesn’t like getting flak for the campaign’s negative tone, he thought it gave the issues the attention they deserved. “You have to just sometimes point out that people have mismanaged things,” he said.

From the incumbents’ perspective, the stalled refinancing couldn’t be helped.

The town began the process of refinancing water debt late last year as soon as advisors suggested.

A slow, mandated series of legal steps followed, said Friess. Then the bid for better rates had to be shelved when bond rates spiked and refinancing no longer made sense.

“We didn’t act too slowly, the process takes too long,” said Friess.


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