Ex-mayor takes on budget, water

Athanasia Landis

“So when it rains, it pours: Here I am again,” cracked former Fredonia Mayor Athanasia Landis as she took the podium for a second time last week at a village Board of Trustees meeting.

Landis has attended most trustees’ meetings recently and is unafraid to hammer current village officials for the direction of Fredonia affairs. She got two chances Monday, speaking during a hearing on the 2024-25 proposed budget, and during time regularly reserved in the meeting for public comments.

During the hearing, Landis bashed village officials for raises in property tax and water and sewer rates.

“I’m sure you all know Fredonia has a poverty rate of 21%. How do you think these people are going to pay for everything that you’re asking?” she asked. “There are more than a few senior citizens, and many young families, desperately trying to make ends meet.”

She said the water and sewer funds have solid fund balances, each more than 25%. “Why do you keep raising rates when you have more than enough money to cover expenses and have an adequate fund balance?”

Landis stated that “fund balance is not a savings account – this is not a business, this is a municipality. The fund balance is there so that local governments avoid raising taxes and utility rates. You’re supposed to use it.”

The ex-mayor went on to say, “You still have enough money to spare our citizens the kind of hardship this budget would put them through.”

She added, “The actions that your budget is proposing will drive people out of this area and potentially will bankrupt the village. So here’s an original idea: instead of doing any of this, cut spending.”

During her second stint at the podium Monday, Landis again warned village officials about their decision to eventually purchase water from the city of Dunkirk. She questioned if Dunkirk really seeks to cooperate with Fredonia on water issues.

“Here’s the issue: Cooperation means we have each other’s back,” she said. “Cooperation means, if they have a problem with water, we are there to help them. If we have a problem with water, they are there to help us. Cooperation means, we put money, they put money, and we get some very expensive equipment that we use then on an as- needed basis. Cooperation even means, put together the two plants and make one very strong one.

“What you’re proposing is not cooperation. We’re going to become their customers. Just because you go to (a store) and buy decorations for your next event, that doesn’t make you their partner. You can’t go to a bank and say, ‘I’m (the store’s) partner. I buy things from them.’ Best case scenario, they will laugh.”

Landis predicted, “The same will happen with Fredonia. Becoming Dunkirk’s customers will make it harder to get grants, not easier.”

Landis went on to defend Fredonia’s “Save Our Reservoir” group from “an attempt to undermine our numbers, our willingness to move forward, even our intelligence.”

She said, “I don’t know how many we are, the only thing I can tell you is that I have here a petition with… a little bit over 300 (signatures), which I want to give to the clerk, and copy back if you don’t mind.”

Landis was Fredonia’s mayor from 2015-19. She was defeated for re-election in 2019 by Douglas Essek, then a village trustee.

Essek chose not to seek re-election in 2023. Michael Ferguson was initially the only person on the ballot for Fredonia’s mayoral seat, but Landis challenged him weeks before the November election with a write-in campaign. Ferguson beat her.

Landis was subsequently one of five village residents who filed a lawsuit against trustees’ Dec. 26 decision to decommission the Fredonia water plant, draw down the adjacent reservoir and buy water from Dunkirk. The lawsuit is still pending in state Supreme Court.


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