What are the biggest issues facing the village?
Candidates all agreed that the answer to this question is, simply put, money. Residents will be expecting a village tax decrease to offset the increase to their town taxes due to police consolidation.
Jeannine Dirie: “It’s getting to the point that what we have to do is not about what we want to do, it’s what we can afford to do. We have to make some changes that may not be what we really want to do.”
Dirie said many small governments are feeling this same pressure. State mandates, mostly unfunded, are forcing the village’s hand in many cases, and grant applications are becoming more competitive. In spite of these issues, she thinks the Village Board will find a way to continue to provide the services that residents have enjoyed for years.
Suzanne LeBlanc: “We are going to work very hard to give a double-digit [tax] decrease. We’ll know what the amount will be in a few weeks.”
LeBlanc pointed said while the village is no longer responsible for the entire $1.1 million price tag once attached to the police budget, a $208,000 annual payment must be made to the town to maintain service levels in the village. State police retirement funds, which are paid a year behind, will require another $130,000 for the village police officers employed last year.
Brian Martin: “We have to figure out where this money is going to come from.”
Martin noted that state mandates are making budgeting very hard for small municipalities. State mandates require spending, but provide no additional funds to cover the added expense. As an example, he explained that New York State has mandated additional safety equipment for firefighters. He would like to see the village seek additional grant monies for infrastructure upgrades and equipment purchases.
Patrick Landewe: “Consolidation for consolidation’s sake is not what we’re after, but I think the option should be explored.” Additional consolidation efforts may also offer taxpayers relief. Landewe would like to see further consolidation of village and town departments studied. If it’s determined that further consolidation is not only feasible, but in the best interests of the taxpayers, then he would like to pursue this action.
Other issues mentioned included smart development, and placing an effort on preserving green, open spaces. Offering additional recreational activities including waterfront activities and trail corridors for pedestrians and bicyclists was also mentioned. It was suggested that these as well as other priorities be written into the town’s comprehensive plan, which is in the process of being updated. The waterfront revitalization plan may soon see an update as well.
“One of the nice things about the board is the diversity,” said Landewe. “Everyone has their own priorities and interests. Between us, we have all the bases covered.”
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
Dirie: Early in her term, Dirie investigated, and eventually enrolled the village in the MEGA program, resulting in saving on heating and electricity costs for village facilities. The program essentially provides group purchases of energy, resulting in lower costs.
This year, she worked with LeBlanc on amending the village’s solid waste law, and has been charged with public relations and community events coordination.
“I’m proud of that, but I really feel like I’m still learning,” said Dirie. “I sort of act as a community liaison. I listen to people and try to respond to what the majority of the residents want.”
LeBlanc says her biggest accomplishment to date is the village police department abolishment.
“We went in with a very positive attitude, and asked what we could do to get this done,” said LeBlanc. “We marched forward and got it completed. When I ran four years ago, that’s what I promised to do, and I followed through.”
Landewe has only been on the board a year, and says he has spent much of that time trying to increase transparency and bring more efficiency to village processes. One of his campaign promises was to make the village budget available on the website, so residents will have the opportunity to review it before the board vote. He says this goal will be realized this year, and residents will soon be able to access the document via the village website.
As the liaison to the historic review board, he has undertaken similar tasks. With Landewe’s help, the board is now formulating a set of guidelines that will be distributed to property owners in the village’s historic districts, something long overdue he says. Though Saugerties was one of the first communities to establish a federally recognized historic district, it is one of the last to formulate a set of guidelines and standards related to historic preservation.
“We’re getting the process organized, and trying to make the process clearer for applicants, but also trying to improve [the board’s] ability to maintain the integrity of the historic districts,” said Landewe.
Martin says the accomplishment he is most proud of as fire chief is the replacement of an aging fire truck in 2002. A year of committee work culminated in replacing a 1972 Maxim with a much newer American LaFrance Eagle Pumper. The Maxim truck, according to Martin, had long outlived its life expectancy and was requiring frequent small repairs. Though the fire department may have been able to continue using it, Martin felt the truck was nickel and diming the village, and the new truck saved money in the long run.
“When we sit down to spec out a fire truck, most trucks have a life expectancy of around ten years,” said Martin. “We get 20-plus years out of our trucks. We really get the best use out of what we get.”
Why should the village voters vote for you?
Dirie said she brings a balance to the board. She tries to be open-minded and listen, taking a little bit from each perspective.
“I’m still learning, and I haven’t yet had an area to cover,” she said. “But, this is where I grew up. I love the village and I love the people. I want to continue to serve them.”
LeBlanc: “Because I’m the fiscal watchdog. If you don’t like saving money, then don’t vote for me, but if you like to save money, or have questions asked about the village finances, then you must vote for me.”
Landewe: “I like to do research. I think we need to make decisions not based on hunches or agendas, but on as much information as we can find, and I’ve made it my job to provide that.”
Landewe said all decisions must be informed decisions, and he works to provide trustees with background information on various topics and issues.
Martin: “I pretty much have seen how the village works.” Martin has six years experience as the village fire chief, and has also served assistant chief for several years. He worked for the village for more than twenty years, prior to retiring for health reasons. If elected, he can add the perspective of a village employee.
How can the village government make the village a better place?
Dirie: “I think we need to try to clean up some of the areas that maybe look a little shabby.” Many ideas that would accomplish this goal have been proposed, but have fallen through the cracks, said Dirie, citing the Solid Waste Law as an example. The law, which would have required residents to store trash cans out of sight, failed with a 3-3 vote several months ago.
She would also like to see a department store move into the village.
Landewe would like to see better coordination with community organizations. He sees opportunities for recreational trails and bicycle paths, and for additional use of the village waterfront. He would like to coordinate with community groups in order to be able to apply for shared services grants in order to provide some of these opportunities to villagers.
“I think there needs to be some coordination, so we can work together,” he said.
LeBlanc is working on a plan to make absentee landlords more responsible for their properties. She says that more than half of the homes in the village house tenants, many with landlords who do not reside in Saugerties. She would like to rezone many of the villages R-3 zones, which allow for three and more family houses, to R-1 and R-2 which only allow one and two family homes.
“So many buildings have been turned into three- and four-family homes, and to me that’s upsetting because I always think of Saugerties as one-family homes with children, elderly citizens, and people enjoying the community,” said LeBlanc. “When you have so many rentals, you have people who do not have a stake in the community. They’re here-today and gone-tomorrow.”
Martin would also like to see business increase, which will entice more people to visit and move to the village.
“We need to work closely with the businesses and the chamber of commerce,” said Maritn. “We need to do more to encourage people to come into the village.”