Too many Monroe County residents may view the town of Hamlin as an appendage to popular Hamlin Beach State Park.
True, the park and the Lake Ontario shoreline in general are vital to this west-side community, as to the whole region. But Hamlin has its own special character --- still largely rural --- and its own internal dynamics.
Like other towns near the outward edge of sprawling Rochester, Hamlin is facing change. According to the town's official history, the 1960 population was 2,755. "By 1970 that number jumped to 4,167, which nearly doubled during the following decade to 7,675," says the history. The population grew to 9,203 in 1990 and 9,355 in 2000.
But now a clash of personalities has put Hamlin on the county map.
It's the Republican primary for Hamlin town supervisor, between incumbent Austin Warner III and town board member --- and former Warner ally --- Ed Evans.
Evans, a retired public school science teacher, has been on the town board for more than a decade; he was deputy supervisor for two years under Warner, as well. Evans has served on the town's conservation board (he's got a special interest in wetlands preservation) and has been a co-chair of the Comprehensive Plan committee. His term on the town board expires in December.
Warner, a former furniture store operator and auctioneer who's finishing his second four-year term, spent six years on the town's Zoning Board of Appeals before becoming supervisor. He coordinates and coaches for town sports programs, and he's headed the Santa Claus operations at a local mall.
So why have these two men had a falling out?
On one level, it's strictly a matter of procedure. Judy Hazen, Hamlin's Republican town leader, says Evans simply didn't get the pre-election paperwork in order. "Mr. Evans was not timely in putting in his request to serve [another term] on the town board," she says. "Another candidate was waiting to run." Eventually, she says, Evans put in a written request for the Republican nod for supervisor. But the party committee, she says, chose to back Warner for re-election.
"I don't believe there's that much animosity between the two gentlemen," Hazen says.
Evans has his view of the situation.
"It's a long and involved story," he says. "Austin and I hadn't been agreeing on a lot of stuff, on policy, for a long time." He believes Warner and other town officials "turned on him" after he "gave 12 years, the best years of my life" to public service.
"I'm the bad boy," says Evans. He acknowledges that he didn't keep up with the paperwork. "I was fatigued, and I decided I wasn't going to run any more... Like everyone else, I'm entitled to change my mind once in a while."
One item Evans thinks poisoned the atmosphere was a community-wide debate over communications towers. "I proposed a moratorium on towers," says Evans. "I said there was a lot of public opposition [to them]." The moratorium, he says, was enacted but didn't last, thanks to moves by Warner and others.
Overall, says Evans, what's most important is "developing a sense of community" for Hamlin by concentrating new services, private as well as governmental, within town borders. (He adds he's not philosophically opposed to intermunicipal sharing.) He'd like to see more things like the town's new library, which is successfully drawing Hamlinites to a new strip mall at the fringe of the town's population center. He notes that a new Tops supermarket and a Subway restaurant, among other things, are helping keep people from seeking their services away from home.
In keeping with his environmental beliefs, Evans says the town will have to focus more on Lake Ontario --- not just on the state park, but on the development of lakeside cottages, sewage issues, and the like.
What's Warner's perspective on the challenger and the issues?
"Basically," says Warner, "what happened was, [Evans] came and said 'I'm not going to run.' Somebody else came forward and was nominated."
"I'm very proud of my record," says Warner. "I have an open-door policy. If my car's out there [in the town hall lot], you can come in."
One thing Warner's obviously proud of is Hamlin's new communications tower ordinance. In this year's State of the Town address, he said that intensive research by town officials, plus the services of an outside professional consulting firm, produced "a final 26-page, 38-section local law that will be the envy of the state."
The financial picture is on Warner's mind, too. "When I came in," he says, "we had a reserve fund of $12,000; now it's $200,000."
Warner points out the town's Comprehensive Plan process is moving forward. "This is one of the most important things we're doing right now," he says. He faults Evans for leaving the committee. (Evans says he "turned over" the committee work "to the other co-chair" but remains involved "behind the scenes." We also asked Cindy Olds, Hamlin's Clerk to the Support Boards, if Evans still was a committee member. "We have no idea... no comment," she said.)
Then there's the question of extending municipal water lines, which Warner says are vital for good development. The town, he says, has created four new water districts, two of which are up and running.
Will extending the water lines contribute to sprawl and conflict with farmland preservation? Warner believes it won't. He notes that dependable water service is important for fire protection, too.
Warner sums up what's facing Hamlin, and underlying this primary race and the general election: "Do we want to protect agricultural land, and if so, where and at what cost?"
Primary elections will be held for several elected offices in Monroe County on September 9. To vote in the primary, you must be a city resident and a registered member of the political party holding the election. Polling hours will be noon to 9 p.m. Information: Monroe County Board of Elections, 428-4550 (TDD: 428-2390).For more about the 2003 Primary elections, visit the News Articles section by clicking here!