By Cheryl Petersen Contributing Writer
The Daily Star
---- — With contested seats in more than half the county, the fight to sit on the Delaware County Board of Supervisors is a tough one this year. Here is a glance at the 10 town supervisor races that will be decided on Tuesday (uncontested candidates are not included):
Meredith Supervisor Keitha Capouya, a Democrat, said she feels agritourism has provided an added dimension to economic development in the county.
“We have significant growth opportunities, given the large demand in the New York metropolitan area for agricultural products from Delaware County,” Capouya said, noting that she would seek “more farms, more land under production, and more jobs on farms and in support industries.”
Capouya said she has lingering doubts over the proposed county bed tax, stating, “It may slow economic growth in tourism.”
Capouya said she “strongly” opposes hydrofracking in the county, noting that “risks to our drinking water, air and health are simply too great, and the protections far too small.”
She expressed a desire that more money from watershed acquisitions be spent on secure storage for gasoline, fuel oil and other toxic substances. She is also an advocate for alternative energy, arguing that the county ought to explore solar and geothermal systems for municipal facilities.
“If we can eliminate fossil fuels and save money, we ought to be able to keep taxes lower,” she wrote.
Republican challenger James Ellis, who teaches applied sciences and building technologies at SUNY Delhi, agreed that economic development is a priority, but emphasized technology as a means to do so, in addition to working with the New York City watershed.
“I believe improved cell phone service is a priority, and I see the immediate potential of Internet-based businesses,” Ellis said.
Ellis said he was not certain the proposed ban on fracking and fossil fuel mining and processing being considered by town government was appropriate.
“Concerns over fracking are legitimate; however, decisions should be scientifically calculated,” Ellis said, noting that, since the town is not energy-independent, banning the practices in Meredith would only mean exploiting other communities for fossil fuels. “Safer methods of gas extraction need to be proactively supported in unity, while having an open mind to alternative energy sources.”
Ellis did speak in favor of safe access to natural gas for businesses, schools and municipalities in the county, noting that “fracking is a separate issue.”
Without taking a position on the proposed bed tax, Ellis said he believes county government should work closely with the Chamber of Commerce to promote tourism. He also noted that “preventative, rather than reactive, measures” are the best way to approach flood mitigation.
Sidney Town Supervisor Bob McCarthy is not seeking a second term. Vying to replace him are R. Eugene Pigford, a Republican, and William Heath, a Democrat.
Pigford, who is retired, said he has been attending town meetings for the last four years and is ready to more fully participate in town services.
On natural gas development, Pigford said he would support “any initiative that brings jobs to the other that won’t compromise our agriculture and natural resources,” noting that access to natural gas “provides an economic benefit and can help the local businesses, as long as it is done safely.
Pigford supports the idea of promoting tourism in the county, but said more study would be needed before he would vote for a bed tax. He praised the town’s efforts on flood mitigation and called the town’s 12-year-old Comprehensive Plan a good one, but said he would be interested in updating it.
“While putting the plan to action, we can implement other activities such as natural gas access,” Pigford added.
Heath said budgets are a key issue facing both the town and county.
“I believe every official should be looking for alternate revenue streams, not just relying on the taxpayers to shoulder the burden of balancing budgets,” he said.
To help in this effort, Heath argued that town and county governments need to join in making New York “a more enticing area to start a business.”
Within the constraints of the watershed, agriculture and tourism are “growth areas,” Heath said, noting that light industrial development such as technology and green energy elsewhere in the county could have a ripple effect, bringing in service businesses such as restaurants and shopping opportunities.
“I do not believe natural gas development in Delaware County is in the best interest of the people of this county,” Heath said, noting that there are alternative methods available. “The gas industry has not proven, to my satisfaction, that the process known as fracking, can be done safely.”
Democrat Tom Hynes has served as Roxbury Town Supervisor since 1984.
“I’ve been in favor of the proposed Belleayre Ski and Resort expansion from Day One,” Hynes said. “It would be a tremendous boost to the whole Catskill region. We need it. I can see it bringing more people and recreation.”
On fracking, Hynes said he “keep(s) an open mind,” noting that “there are pros and cons,” and that more research is needed.
Similarly, on the bed tax, Hynes said, “I’m talking with Roxbury businesses. I’m not 100 percent for it, and need to get a better feel for what the people think.”
Independent challenger William Walcutt said he wants to create a viable environment for young people who need to make a living.
“The schools are shriveling and there are no jobs,” Walcutt said. “I am absolutely in favor of the proposed Belleayre ski and resort expansion.”
“If fracking can be done responsibly, I am all for it,” said Walcutt, noting that on a trip to Pennsylvania’s gas drilling operations, “I saw ... Pennsylvanians in favor of mining for gas because it has provided an improved economy.”
Walcutt opposes the proposed bed tax, arguing that Roxbury’s taxes are already the highest in the county.
Both candidates voiced their commitment to preserving Kirkside Park; Hynes noted that he also wants the town to keep the Grand Gorge Civic Center and the playground in good shape, while Walcutt noted that “I now have an immediate interest in helping Becker’s Tire and Sundaes Restaurant, who experienced the loss because of fire.”
Peter Bracci, an independent, is finishing out his 10th year as Delhi Supervisor. Looking forward, Bracci said, “I’m glad that (the town) approved to enter into a franchise agreement to bring natural gas to the local businesses. It will reduce energy costs and keep the businesses here.”
A positive relationship with New York City has been important to Bracci; he noted that “Our economic development is multifaceted and requires looking at new partnerships between the city and, for example, local organic farming.”
Bracci said he believes some of the money set aside for land acquisition by New York City should be spent on flood mitigation. As for a bed tax, Bracci said he “understands the need to dedicate more funds to tourism promotion.”
Republican challenger Mark Tuthill said economic development must extend beyond the status quo.
“My primary object is to work together at the county level,” said Tuthill. “The towns have the same interests and shouldn’t bicker.”
Tuthill said he would seek more commercial and housing development, noting that “hobby farms ... don’t really benefit the town.”
Echoing his opponent, Tuthill said good communication with New York City is paramount, but added, “Land acquisitions only hurt our towns and don’t really keep water cleaner.”
Tuthill criticized the latest floodplain maps, noting that more homes are now in a larger flood area.
“This puts a red flag up to me. Those homeowners will be expected to carry flood insurance now,” Tuthill said. “I will strive to work better with the Department of Environment Conservation when it comes to flood prevention rather than slow recovery.”
Colchester Supervisor Cindy Donofrio, who is on the Democratic line on the ballot, said she has seen the benefits of cooperating with New York City as a substitute on the Coalition of Watershed Towns.
“The city has a lot to offer and it’s important our towns take advantage of opportunities,” such as opening reservoirs to more boating, Donofrio said, noting that this program “boosts tourism and helps the local businesses economically.”
Donofrio said she recognizes that Delaware County is one of a few in the state without a bed tax, and that she wants to study the issue further.
The town is working on implementing a warning system along the river.
“As part of flood mitigation, fire whistles will be installed along the river so that in a case of a pending flood, notice can be sounded off to alert the public,” Donofrio noted.
While on the Colchester Town Board, Republican challenger Arthur Merrill said he witnessed improved cooperation between the towns and New York City.
Although Merrill grew up on a farm, his pursuit of economic development reaches beyond agriculture.
“The agricultural business is a struggle, so the town should look to second homeowners and weekenders,” added Merrill. “They have an invested interest and are beneficial to development.”
To protect the town from future flood damage, Merrill said he would seek grants to keep preventative action “moving forward.”
He also noted that he would support the stone quarry and logging industries.
Both candidates expressed concerns about fracking and said they would seek the opinions of constituents before taking action. Merrill noted that natural gas is “an important resource,” but that it is also “a different issue” than fracking.
TOWN OF MIDDLETOWN
Middletown Supervisor Marjorie Miller, a Democrat, said Delaware County needs, “a countywide plan for maximizing our assets. Main Street revitalization programs, coordinated with others already in existence like green energy leveraging our superb SUNY school in Delhi, are needed to grow our economy and attract full-time residents and businesses.”
Middletown is surveying residents on natural gas development, but Miller stated, “I do not believe hydraulic fracturing is in any way compatible or consistent with the mixed agriculture and tourism-based economy of Middletown.”
Miller supports the proposed bed tax as a means to boost funding for tourism promotion.
Miller said she is pleased New York City has entered into contracts with the county, adding, “I would like to see stronger, more coordinated recovery efforts between local municipalities as well as increased communication throughout the county during flood events. However, I want to end the aggressive land acquisitions instigated by New York City.”
Republican challenger Nelson Delameter said his No. 1 priority is economic revitalization, and pointed to the proposed Belleayre ski and resort expansion as one example of a source for jobs paying above minimum wage.
Expressing concern over what he characterized as high spending in town government, Delameter said, “I aim to have a government that doesn’t make all the decisions but goes to the people to see what they want.”
He said the proposed bed tax “requires more research.”
TOWN OF BOVINA
Republican Tina Molé is completing 12 years as supervisor.
“During my tenure, the board has followed through on some major accomplishments,” said Molé. “A $6 million septic project, funded by grant monies, was completed, in conjunction with a storm water system installed by Delaware County Department of Public Works.”
On the proposed bed tax, Mole said she would need to “hear from my Bovina bed-and-breakfast owners” before making a decision.
“I’m currently seeking funding to paint the outside of town hall and to renovate the community water system,” Molé added.
Independent candidate Beatriz F. Sohni, proprieter of Russell’s General Store, said she feels she can be a voice for the people.
“I moved to Bovina three and half years ago and can’t afford a home because the taxes are high,” said Sohni. “I believe something can be worked out to bring equity to the situation.”
“The bed tax is a new topic,” said Sohni. “I kind of agree, especially if the funds go for more advertising to attract tourist. We need more tourists.”
Both candidates spoke in favor of the proposed Belleayre expansion, and against fracking.
Davenport Town Supervisor Dennis Valente, a Democrat, advocates for economic and infrastructure development at the town and county levels.
“Electricity is an issue,” said Valente. “There are a few businesses that need to make their own electricity and we need to work together to remove that impediment. Electricity should be readily available.”
Valente called the Constitution Pipeline a “double-edged sword,” noting that the pipeline would run through the town without offering natural gas service to residents.
“We strive to be a part of the process that can bring benefit to our area,” Valente said, noting that he has held public meetings for residents on the subject.
Valente noted that he serves on the county watershed committee “because it does affect the whole county,” adding, “I’ve noticed a turn for the better in our relationship with the city.”
On the proposed bed tax, Valente said he is “inclined to oppose” it, adding, “It’s difficult to believe we can tax ourselves into prosperity.”
Valente’s opponent, Republican Timothy Kelso, could not be reached.
Kortright Supervisor Steven C. Bower is not seeking re-election. Campaigning to fill his seat are Democrat Vernon Bailey and Republican George Haynes Jr. Haynes could not be reached.
Bailey emphasized agriculture and tourism as cornerstones of the county’s economy.
“I believe we should do all that we can to promote and maintain our farms and encourage alternate crop production,” Bailey said. We should recruit smaller businesses to relocate to Delaware County by offering tax incentives.”
Another boost could come from increased tourism in the New York City watershed.
“New York City should open all of its reservoirs to swimming, water skiing and responsible boating,” Bailey said. “This would ... bring much needed-revenue to the local towns.”
Bailey said he opposes the bed tax, and is “leaning against” natural gas development for Delaware County, but said he was open to further study.
He advocated cleaning out streambeds to mitigate future flood damage, but noted fish habitat should not be prioritized over the safety of communities.
Masonville Supervisor Michael Spaccaforno, a Republican, said he has been working to reduce unfunded state mandates.
“I’ve been meeting with other supervisors to figure out how to get this under control because those mandates are stretching our budgets to a snapping point,” said Spaccafono. “I’ve been contacting state representatives to get relief to the counties and towns, a little relief has come, but not enough. I also am interested in reducing the amount needed for social services in Delaware County.”
Spaccaforno said he has been trying for two years to get cellphone reception to town, and added, “I’m all for a bed tax, but the biggest issues are getting people off social services, and working and to get the state to fund their mandates and be reasonable.”
Independent candidate Marie Sroka could not be reached.