March 26, 2005

Golf course sale raises conflict of interest, other questions

This week's Dryden Courier has a must-read article on the March 11th auction of the Lakeview Golf Course, where it was purchased by its current owner, George Szlasa. It's definitely worth getting up now and going out to buy the paper if you haven't already. The paragraphs that generated the most shock in me are:

[Szlasa] was stunned the town did not make a bid, he said, because he knew exactly what the supervisor was authorized to bid.

"My attorney told me," he said.

Szlasa's attorney and the town's attorney are the same man, Mahlon Perkins, whose own house overlooks the golf course, sharing the same magnificent view of Dryden Lake with Hammond Hill in the background.

Perkins is out of town this week, but Trumbull said, "he's legal. He really is. A lot of people have asked about it."

Trumbull said questions have come up regarding Perkins' role, but nothing appeared compromised. Perkins, he said, attended executive sessions in which the purchase price was discussed, but had recused himself from participation. Besides, Trumbull said, "if that's what he was after, he didn't get what he wanted."

So let me get this straight. The public is kept out of discussions about a real estate purchase because news of the price might affect the sale of the land, but the town's own attorney then tells a client with a clear interest in the land the price the board has secretly agreed upon?

It's hard to write about this without sputtering. This makes a joke of the justification for having those discussions in executive session in the first place, and raises serious questions about whether Mahlon Perkins represents the town's interests.

Szlasa deliberately set his bid $100 below the amount Town Supervisor Steve Trumbull was authorized to bid, but Trumbull is "glad I didn't put the trigger.... It just didn't feel right," after the purchase of land for the Town Hall.

The future of the course remains in doubt. Szlasa says he has two potential anonymous buyers, and the article also mentions the possibility of his giving it to his son David to become an artists' retreat.

In an article on New York State issues affecting Dryden, the Courier reports that the New York State Assembly is considering a bill (passed by the Senate last year) that would allow towns and villages to initiate annexation proceedings, potentially simplifying the legal situation for annexations north of the Village of Dryden, though it's not clear that it will escape committee and pass. There is also the possibility of a law specifically aimed at Dryden. Town Board Member Mike Hattery also reports that the New York State Department of Transportation may not be building their highway facility in 2005 on land the Village of Dryden annexed last year.

The Village of Dryden is also facing some tough budget issues, though "figures were not accepted by the board as a tentative budget and not available for release." The costs of benefits and insurance, electricity, gasoline, tar, and oil are all going up.

The rest of the news in the Courier is brighter. Dryden High School student Ethan Cirmo gets a profile for his recent performance in "Bye Bye Birdie," as well as for his other performances on trombone and "the euponium, which is, essentially, a small tuba."

There's an article on County Legislator Mike Lane's announcement of his run for re-election, in which Lane said:

Residents in Tompkins County are facing spiking real property assessements and double digit tax increases. These are fueled by spiraling costs of unfunded state mandates for Medicaid, pension and health costs - to name a few. At the same time we are hard-pressed to keep up basic services, like county roads, sheriff's patrols, the community college and our library... We must always be studying, comparing, and looking for better ways to provide essential county services in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.

There's an article on TCAT's looking over its ridership numbers after a 50% fare increase. Overall ridership is down 1.7%, but they also cut six rural routes.

In sports, there are articles on TC3's golf team, and Stacey Riker of Dryden makes the 2004-5 Finger Lakes Girls Basketball All-Stars.

The Courier's sister paper, the Ithaca Times, has an article on where Tompkins County trash goes.

Posted by simon at March 26, 2005 9:27 AM in , , , , , , , , , ,
Note on photos