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No free ride for incumbents GOP supervisor, councilmen face challengers in primary

The Republican incumbents in the Town of Lockport have seldom faced much competition over the years, but that's not the case in this year's election.

Supervisor Marc R. Smith and Councilmen Paul H. Pettit and Mark C. Crocker will have opposition in Tuesday GOP primary from David J. Mongielo for supervisor and Donna J. Pieszala and David T. Devereaux for Town Board seats.

All three of the challengers are registered Republicans but have the Democratic Party's nominations, so if the incumbents win Tuesday, they'll have to try to beat the challengers again in November.

Polling hours are noon to 9 p.m. at various locations. Those unsure of the correct polling place should call the Niagara County Board of Elections at 438-4040.

Smith, 49, of Woodhaven Drive, said he believes he deserves a third two-year term "because of a successful track record."

That track record was crowned last month with groundbreaking for the Yahoo! East Coast data center in the town industrial park, which, according to Smith, shows the town is business-friendly and successful in luring companies.

"We beat out 20 states [for Yahoo!]. We've got a good story to tell here," said Smith, who asserted that 40 new businesses have opened in the town during his four years as supervisor.

Mongielo, 43, of Day Road, said the town gave away the store to get Yahoo! He noted the town Industrial Development Agency granted the computer giant a long-term property tax break, including no taxes at all for the first 10 years.

"They don't do anything for the businesses that are already here," Mongielo said. "A multibillion-dollar company that doesn't need a tax break, they give them the world."

Mongielo, owner of a Robinson Road auto repair shop, is embroiled in a lawsuit with the town over the proper use of an electronic signboard in front of his business. The town cited Mongielo for violating a law that says a sign can't change more than once every 10 minutes.

Mongielo acknowledged that he has been called a one-issue candidate, but he denied that he is.

"A lot of people think I'm doing it just because of the sign, but it's not true. I've been interested in politics for years," he said. "We are slowly losing our rights as individuals to live a free life."

Smith pointed to his Transit North initiative, attempting to improve the streetscape on Route 78 in cooperation with the City of Lockport and the Town of Pendleton, as another key accomplishment, but Mongielo ridiculed it.

He criticized the proposal to install a traffic median on South Transit Road and laughed at the drawing for a gateway over the road at the Erie County line. "I think it's the most ridiculous thing I ever saw in my life," Mongielo said.

Smith, owner of an insurance agency, said the town has a 100-year infrastructure plan -- it's been saving money for water and sewer line repairs -- and other long-term plans.

"We have a five-year financial plan to make sure we can continue to have no [general] town tax," Smith said.

Crocker, 53, of Forest Hill Road, also is serving as deputy supervisor this year. Running for his second board term, he said the town is working on streamlining its permit application process to make it more business-friendly, while being responsive to homeowners.

"We have a proven track record of where to find cuts in expenses without cutting services," said Crocker, a retired Air National Guard lieutenant colonel and flight navigator.

Pieszala said Crocker and the rest of the town's part-time officials are overpaid and vowed to reduce salaries if she is elected.

Pieszala, 52, of Heather Drive, a General Motors retiree, is in her fourth year on the Newfane School Board. She said School Board members seem to work much harder than Town Board members, yet School Board members receive no pay or benefits. Town officials are salaried and have the option of taking health insurance or a $1,500 stipend for not taking it.

Pointing to the length of typical Town Board meetings and work sessions in a given month, Pieszala said the $9,061 councilman salary is too much. As deputy supervisor, Crocker earns twice that.

"I don't think they do anywhere near the work we [School Board members] do," Pieszala said. "When you go to the meetings, there's no discussion. I want to have a more transparent government."

She also called for abolishing the health benefits and the stipend for part-time officials.

"My record shows I don't vote for tax increases. I'm very analytical, and I ask the hard questions," Pieszala said.

Pettit said he already does that. "I've been called the 'why guy.' Why don't we look at it another way? Especially with the engineers, I ask them a lot of loaded questions, but I've saved the town a lot of money," he said.

Pettit, 71, of Waterford Place, is running for his fourth term. The retired GM engineer said, "I'm there because I like to serve. I have no axes no grind, no ulterior motives."

He said he wants to review green energy for the town, such as solar panels on Town Hall. He's been active in trying to develop soccer fields in Day Road Park.

Devereaux, 52, another GM retiree, said the town needs better communication with citizens, especially those like him who live in the outer reaches of the town.

"You have a group of individuals sitting on the board, and three of them live within a block of each other," he said. "Once you have some people who live on the north side of the canal and south of Dysinger Road, you can communicate better. You know what's going on out there."

Devereaux also said the board should abolish its afternoon work sessions and hold them in the evening when more citizens would have a chance to attend.

"I meet people who have never met anybody who works for the town and have never had anybody [from the town] on the doorstep," he said.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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