It’s a time-honored practice for elected officials to put their names on signs marking publicly owned property — parks, golf courses, beaches, marinas and the main thoroughfares leading into their municipalities.
So when eight new town supervisors and a new Erie County executive took office Jan. 1, it seemed crews in those communities had a bushel of signs to paint over or switch out.
But this year, two supervisors are balking at this taxpayer-subsidized self-promotion.
"I just think it’s the symbolism that bothered me. It almost seems like these people with their big egos, and they want to put their name on everything," said Lancaster Supervisor Dino J. Fudoli, who didn’t single out an offender. "And it’s not theirs — it doesn’t belong to them."
Fudoli and Mary S. Cooke, the new Grand Island supervisor, say they won’t put their names on signs marking town property.
Four other towns don’t post names of elected officials on their signs.
"We don’t waste money on that," said Margaret Orrange, the North Collins town clerk.
This leaves Clarence and Evans, as well as Erie County, updating their signs to replace the names of outgoing officials with their successors’ monikers.
The cost isn’t high, and these naming rights provide supervisors, mayors and county executives with a boost to their brands — and their egos.
But none of the officials signing up for this custom expressed much enthusiasm for it.
"I think it’s a little pompous," said David C. Hartzell Jr., the new Clarence supervisor, who added that, if it were up to him, he wouldn’t have his name on any signs around the town.
This is an age-old tradition that amounts to some free publicity for officeholders.
"There’s no question, it’s really a form of advertising. It’s a way for the elected official to get greater name recognition, at a time they’re not campaigning," said Bob Davis, president of the Partnership Ltd. ad agency and former chairman of the Erie County Republican Party.
The names typically go up on property associated with positive feelings — such as parks or beaches — and not parking-enforcement vehicles or sewer and water bills.
Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown drew some criticism from firefighters last fall after they found his name emblazoned on eight new firetrucks.
Previously, only firefighters who died in the line of duty had their names placed on city fire trucks, and Brown’s name was removed following some bad publicity. But he still has his name on dozens of office entrances, banners on light poles and other spots around Buffalo.
"Byron is the expert — I kneel at his feet," said Hartzell, a Republican, referring to the Democratic mayor.
Erie County has 23 signs at its parks and Grover Cleveland and Elma Meadows golf courses that bear the name of the county executive — Mark C. Poloncarz.
The Town of Evans has signs with officials’ names at four locations: Sturgeon Point Marina, Evans Town Park, the Senior Center and the Town Hall.
Keith E. Dash, the new Evans supervisor, said having names on the signs could be helpful if residents are wondering who to contact if they have a question about town affairs.
"They’re where the public assembles," Dash said.
At the Senior Center and the Town Hall, changing the names means switching around some letters on a bulletin board. at the marina and the town park, the names are stenciled on the signs, Dash said.
The cost of updating these signs is minimal, with Hartzell saying Clarence will pay a modest amount — $9.51, he guessed — to put his name on six signs in Meadowlakes Park and elsewhere in the town.
Hartzell joked that he’s going to put up billboards around town with his picture and name on them. asked if they would look like the ubiquitous ads for two personal-injury lawyers, he continued the jest.
"Exactly, but I have more hair," he replied.
For Erie County, Robert Dececco handles the signs as an employee in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry.
Sections of wood with the name of the county executive and the department’s commissioner hang on hooks from the permanent sign that states the name of the county property.
When new people take those positions, Dececco gets wood from the forestry division, routs the letters of the officials’ names and titles into it, paints it and then switches out the old piece of wood for the new one.
The cost for doing this work is about $3,000, said Peter Anderson, a spokesman for County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz.
"That is done at the behest of the parks department," Anderson said. "That is not like a county executive’s directive, to do that sort of thing."
Of course, Poloncarz makes the appointments at the Parks Department.
While the sign-naming is a tradition in some places, West Seneca and other communities don’t customarily put an official’s name on town property.
"We don’t have that type of glamour," quipped West Seneca Supervisor Sheila M. Meegan.
A sign at the entrance to Veterans Memorial Park states, simply, "Town of West Seneca Veterans Memorial Park."
West Seneca is looking to replace some of its signs around town, but any new markers would carry the names of company sponsors, not elected officials, Meegan said.
Three of the least-populated towns that saw a change in administration in the new year — Alden, Collins and North Collins — also don’t put officials’ names on their signs.
"when I look at this, I say, ‘What a waste,’" said Orrange, the North Collins town clerk.
She said the town ordered two new name plates, one for the door to the supervisor’s office and one for the dais in the Town Board’s meeting room, for new Supervisor Rosaline a. Seege.
Combined with two vinyl signs for elsewhere in Town Hall, the total cost to the town was about $50, Orrange said.
It’s not the money they’re worried about, Orrange and other critics said, but it’s the principle of not using taxpayer money to boost their name recognition.
Cooke is still annoyed that the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation directed the Town of Grand Island to put up a $117 sign at Veterans Park, where state grants paid for some improvements.
The sign, attached to the backstop at a park ball field, credits the state Environmental Protection Fund and names Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, office Commissioner Rose Harvey and former Supervisor Peter a. McMahon.
"those are a complete waste," Cooke said. "I’m not going to pay $117 [to put up a new sign]. I’m fine with it."
Fudoli, the Lancaster supervisor, emphasized his objection to this practice in a meeting with Carmen Ciccarelli, an employee in the town’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry.
"That’s something that he wants — he’s the boss," said Terrence D. McCracken, the department’s general crew chief.
McCracken said he’ll have to talk to members of the Town Board, whose names also appear on town signs, to see how they want to proceed. There are four town parks, with one or two such signs at each park.
A sign at the entrance to Westwood Park, explaining the park’s rules and regulations, has the names of McCracken and four current and former Town Board members.
The word "supervisor" remains on the sign, but the space underneath is now blank.
Fudoli’s objection to this form of sign language applies to signs on four wheels, too.
The Lancaster Senior Center has two vans used to shuttle seniors to medical appointments, grocery stores and other places.
The van provided by the county carries the name of former County Executive Chris Collins, while the town-owned van has the names of former Supervisor Robert H. Giza and former County Legislator Kathy Konst.
The two vans will continue to carry the names of former elected officials.
Looking to the future, Fudoli wants to put a statement along these lines on town signs: "This park was paid for and is owned by the residents of Lancaster."
"no politician would ever want to come in and take something like that down," he said.
Developers in Gilbert will pay about 6 percent less in impact fees after the Town Council last week adopted a new rate structure as mandated by state law.
Senate bill 1525, signed by the governor earlier this year, added restrictions on how municipalities can assess developer fees and what kind of projects on which the money can be spent.
Previously, each community was permitted to assess impact fees for growth-related projects it deemed a “necessary public service.” The new law takes that determination away from municipalities and replaces it with a narrower statewide definition. Cities and towns were given until Jan. 1 to bring their fee structures into compliance with state law.
In September, the council approved a $130,000 contract with Maryland-based consultant TischlerBise to help revise the town’s impact fees.
The new structure reduces the amount assessed for parks, fire, police and government infrastructure by about $1,200 per single-family unit. Impact fees for water and wastewater projects remain unchanged.
Before SB 1525, Gilbert imposed eight types of impact fees on developers for $19,684 per single-family home. For a new subdivision of 500 homes, the developer paid about $9.8 million.
Under the new structure, the developer would pay $9.2 million for the same subdivision, or $18,532 per unit.
Town officials are waiting for TichslerBise to complete a more comprehensive report, which will include updates on specific projects and explore alternative financing methods, according to a town staff report.
According to its website, TischlerBise has calculated more than 700 impact fees/excise taxes throughout North America — more than any firm in the country. none of its interpretations on the use of impact fees have been successfully challenged, the firm claims.
SB 1525 passed the Legislature with support of all six lawmakers from Districts 21 and 22 in Gilbert, despite municipalities’ widespread concerns about its impact. Gilbert Mayor John Lewis had warned it could have a “massive” impact on the way the town funds projects.
The law includes the following under its definition of necessary public service:
Water and wastewater facilities.
Storm-water, drainage and flood-control facilities.
Libraries up to 10,000 square feet.
fire and police facilities, not including administrative vehicles, helicopters or training facilities.
Neighborhood parks and recreation centers up to 30 acres.
The new law includes pools in its definition of a necessary public service, but excludes aquariums, aquatic centers, arenas, arts and cultural facilities, environmental education centers, equestrian facilities, golf courses, lakes, museums, riparian areas and zoos.
The funding sources for several large-scale projects in Gilbert may be in jeopardy because of the new law, including a new riparian preserve in the southern part of town, two aquatic centers and two large parks.
System-development fees make up the largest funding source in Gilbert’s Capital Improvement plan, a document that includes future parks, roads, utilities and public-safety facilities. those infrastructure costs over the next few decades are expected to total about $1.2 billion.
SB 1525 also requires municipalities to appoint an advisory committee with 50 percent of the members from the real estate, development or building industries and one member from the homebuilding industry. Municipal employees or officials may not serve on the committee.
In lieu of forming an advisory committee, a municipality may instead conduct a certified audit every two years and post the audit findings online.
Projects in jeopardy
The following parks projects rely on system-development fees as a major funding source but may no longer be eligible under Senate bill 1525.
Riparian preserve. The riparian preserve would be near Higley and Ocotillo roads in south Gilbert. The town expected to use about $8.5 million in park system-development fees to complete the preserve by 2018. The 140-acre park would double as a water recharge site. The new law specifically excludes water reclamation or riparian areas and wetlands from its definition of a “necessary public service.”
Southwest Activity Center/Field Complex. The land for this site near Greenfield and Chandler Heights roads was purchased using bond debt, but the town planned to use about $17 million in development-fee revenue to complete construction by build-out in 2027. The park would likely include ballfields, sport courts, a lake and ramadas, according to the Capital Improvement plan. At about 80 acres, the park is larger than the 30 acres allowed in SB 1525. Larger parks are allowed, however, if they provide a “direct benefit” to the development where impact fees are being assessed.
Hetchler Park. Located near Queen Creek and Greenfield roads, a 55-acre site is scheduled to become a large park with ballfields, sport courts, concessions, lake, ramadas, play areas and restrooms. nearly $20 million in funding was expected to come from park impact fees. The park may be too large to qualify for impact-fee funding.
Aquatic centers. Gilbert’s CIP includes vague plans for two future aquatic centers, one at a Gilbert Public Schools site and another at a Higley Unified School District site. The aquatic centers were to be funded through $15.5 million in park impact fees. The legislation allows for pools but not aquatic centers.