Under Marc R. Smith’s supervision, the bar of professionalism has been raised for town government, Smith says.

Residents, business owners and people considering moving into the town all are its customers, he says, and serving them well means continually improving the product while keeping it affordable.

In his third campaign for town supervisor, Smith, the owner-operator of two small businesses, is running on his record as a municipal CEO. In his four-year administration, he claims these moves are to its credit:

n Municipal fees have been held stable, while existing services (water, sewer, refuse) are improved. New services, such as opening of public parkland, have been added at no direct cost to customers. Day Road Park has been developed almost entirely using grants from the private Grigg-Lewis Foundation and New York State.

n The town board avoided incurring new debt while committing to cutting the town’s existing debt load in half by 2012.

n Internal cost-cutting produced savings worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in areas including telephone, general liability and employee insurances.

n Plans are formulated to increase customer numbers, commercial, industrial and residential, without increasing overhead.

Smith said the beauty of the well-researched Transit North development strategy is it offers what residents want — growth, job creation and, most of all, local places to spend their money — without costing them extra. Like industrial enterprises, retail/commercial ventures can make money while having little or no impact on the highway system, the school system and other public assets.

Government isn’t a business, per se, but Smith’s idea of good government has it emulating good business practices. When he ran for his first public office, town board member in 2003, he said it was because “business sense” seemed to be missing in government generally.

“My desire was to really create an oasis out of Lockport, to show people ... that things can change,” Smith, 49, said. “We’ve gone about it in a very methodical form.”

The decision by Yahoo! this past summer to build a $150 million data center in the town industrial park speaks to the municipal corporation’s readiness to seize opportunity, according to Smith. Its business team — the town board, the planning and zoning boards, the town’s Industrial Development Agency and professional advisers — had only a few months to craft a competitive siting offer for Yahoo! and get the company through all the local legal processes on Yahoo!’s tight timetable.

The team succeeded, Smith said, because the industrial park had already been made business-ready, the legal/developmental processes are clear and easy-to-follow, and all of the town players — board members, consultants, employees — are focused on a common goal: getting new customers “from conception to feet on the ground.”

“The team is now in place. I believe it’s only the beginning,” Smith said. “I’m in this because I think there’s a lot more to be done.”

Since 2004, 42 new businesses have opened in the town, 23 of them on South Transit Road, according to town records compiled by Smith. They’re mostly small, mostly franchises and represent a mix of retail and professional services. Another 8 businesses moved from one location to another within the town, the records show.

Mongielo: Town gives little guys ‘the business’

After two free rides into office, Smith is for the first time facing competition for the supervisor’s $42,642-a-year post.

His opponent, auto service shop owner David J. Mongielo, charges Smith’s “company” is out of touch with its smaller customers: residents and existing small businesses.

Town government under Smith’s control sides with big business over small enterprisers and a presumptive majority over residents of particular neighborhoods, Mongielo asserted.

Neighboring homeowners’ concerns about newly town-acquired Lytle Nature Park, Donner Creek flooding and construction of a Walmart Supercenter at the old Lockport Mall are ignored while Smith and the town board go about the business of pleasing “the elite,” he said.

When the desires of a neighborhood clash with the town’s plans, Mongielo said, the neighbors’ views should carry more weight.

“You need to take care of the people. If they want something, do it. It’s their part of town,” he said. “Residents are not being fairly heard.”

Mongielo, 43, launched his bid for office after the town sued him this past spring for operating a video sign illegally in front of his Robinson Road business. The video feature violates the section of town zoning code that says lit images cannot change more than once every 10 minutes.

Mongielo brought the sign to Lockport from his former business site in Pendleton, where the video feature was legal, and was twice refused a variance by the zoning board. He operated the video feature sporadically anyway, sometimes to promote local charitable causes, and in April was hit with seven charges of violating the zoning ordinance. As recently as Oct. 24, the sign displayed a rapidly changing, multi-frame message again, this time protesting media coverage of his campaign and “politics as usual.”

Mongielo sees his sign struggle as evidence of the Smith administration’s misdirected priorities. He’s compared it with the mall neighborhood’s fight to prevent the Supercenter site plan from being approved, saying both are victims of a local zoning code that’s too restrictive and is written to favor “corporate” interests over smaller customers.

When Mongielo moved his shop back into the town in mid-2008, the site approval process required him to have an attorney and an architect. He said it took about three months to get the town’s approval of a site design that fit the zoning code, which helps articulates the Transit North Historic Canalway Corridor aesthetic.

“It cost me a small fortune (to locate in the town). Transit North is pushing businesses away, the small people, the brick-and-mortar people, everyday people who have a little saved up and want to open up a location,” he said. “When you put these zoning laws in place that say, ‘you need a traffic flow pattern study, an architectural design plan, hire an attorney, get this, get that, it adds the process and the cost. ...

“When we run into these dead ends, we just give up. It just opens the door to the big corporates, gives them an unfair advantage.”

Mongielo claims Smith and the town “team” take too much credit for Yahoo!’s decision to locate in the industrial park. If not for other, bigger influence brokers, including New York Power Authority and Democratic U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer lobbying Verizon to help, the town wouldn’t have been picked, he said.

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