FULTON – Audrey Avery is again seeking to unseat Incumbent Dennis Merlino for the Fulton Common Council Fifth Ward this Election Day. In the 2017 election, Merlino beat Avery in a tight race.
Oswego County Today asked Vono and Kenyon where they stand on some topics that have come up in the Common Council meetings before. This article details their opinions on them.
How do you plan on giving comprehensive transparency to your constituents?
Avery said she does not hide anything from constituents and they need to be made aware of what goes on in the city.
“Making everything as public as possible and making it accessible to everyone is the most important thing to me,” Avery said.
Merlino said he believes he is transparent because he posts city and Common Council updates on his Facebook page.
“I absolutely embrace full communication with the public,” Merlino said. “It’s important that every person in the city has an opportunity to have full say.”
What can be done about stray animals throughout Fulton during the next administration?
“The nuisance law that they are trying to pass reads as follows:
‘216.6 Nuisance C. No unspayed or unneutered animals are allowed to run at large, off the owner’s premises and out of the owner’s care.’
This is very vague and does nothing to control the feral population. Who is to say who owns what cat. The best thing to do is educate the pet owners and offer them spay and neuter at low or no cost. Speaking door to door there are approximately seven people who say it’s an issue. I will work with the administration, humane associations and SPCA to combat any issues that arise,” Avery said in an email.
“Fulton has a tremendous population of feral cats; most of them are based out of abandoned properties or they’ve been left behind,” Merlino said.
Merlino said skunks, racoons and opossums also live in abandoned properties, so he said targeting these properties can be part of the solution. He said the council is trying to partner with the SPCA because of their knowledge on how to recognize and deal with problem animals.
He said he would like to amend some animal control laws, regulate trash to be placed in bins rather than just plastic bags (which can draw wild animals in), and work closely with the SPCA and the animal control officer.
Do you think Fulton should aim at being more environmentally friendly, and how would you work on that?
“The environmental issues I feel that our city needs to go more green in the future, such as solar, recycle more items, continue clean up of the lake. LED lights throughout the entire city,” Avery said in an email.
Merlino commended City Clerk/Chamberlain Daniel O’Brien for his work to get Fulton a clean energy status, bringing the city to the “forefront” of being environmentally friendly.
He said as part of the Planning Board, he has aimed for incoming businesses to have more than the standard 21% green space (an area with grass, trees or other plants).
“Almost everything we do has a strong aspect of environmental consciousness,” Merlino said.
What can you do to help with the drug epidemic?
“Drugs in our city are a huge issue and we need to get the addicts into rehabilitation, find the root of their addiction. Mental health evaluations are necessary and treatment if there are underlying mental issues, also working with law enforcement and Drug Task Force,” Avery said in an email.
“It’s a seemingly impossible issue because it’s everywhere in the nation, and seems to be everywhere in the world right now,” Merlino said. “And for us to say we’re going to solve it, we might be kidding ourselves. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do something about it.”
He said some actions that could help are working with Neighborhood Watch, advising residents to alert the police if they see drug activity, put up cameras, get involved with Fulton Block Builders to form neighborhood communication and continue cracking down on problem properties.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
“In closing, I would like to thank the many people who have supported me. Going door to door, speaking with my constituents, the environmental and feral cat situation has not been a top priority for them. Neighborhood quality of life issues are more pressing, such as, drug houses, zombie properties, homelessness and crime,” Avery said in an email.
“One of the core habitats of the drug problem is absentee landlord properties,” Merlino said.
He said to handle this issue, it is necessary to strengthen the codes department because they are understaffed and does not have an attorney (the mayor is the acting attorney for the city.)
“It typically takes two years or more to resolve a single codes case, and that, to me, is preposterous,” Merlino said.
He said with more people available in the codes department, these cases could be handled more efficiently and the problem properties can be taken care of quicker.