Walter Frey has lived in the area on and off since 1969. He’s a graduate of Saugerties High School and took general business courses at Dutchess County Community College. He is employed by a home health care company. Frey is on the board of Ulster County BOCES and serves as chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee. He lives with his father and a sister. Frey is running for his second term on the Ulster County Legislature on the Conservative Party line.
What do you believe should be done with Golden Hill, the county-owned health facility?
Golden Hill has two major issues. One is operational, and one is maintenance of the asset. County taxpayers should not be paying for a nursing home, then give up their assets to stay there. I think the facility could be run by the private sector, and still have protections for the residents and the workers. I think we could work this out. The legislators back then, when they invested in a jail may have been off base – why put prisoners ahead of the elderly and those who need help?
The town of Saugerties is working with the county to share snow-removal services. Do you think more services should be shared between the town and the county? If so, which?
Anything that benefits the taxpayers of Ulster County is good. If we can do a better job cheaper, it benefits the people of the county. I was a supporter of shared services to begin with. The cost comes from the same people, whether the county, village or town taxpayers.
If elected, what would be your top priority?
To make the county the most affordable to live in, with a good quality of life, good-paying jobs and a good future for the youth of our community. Right now, what is there to keep people here? What does our youth have to look forward to? I put in a prescription plan that saved people a total of $637,000 through a proactive program that didn’t cost taxpayers anything. Mike [Hein] and I found savings in combining departments. Under Mike’s chairmanship we prosecuted welfare fraud – [District Attorney] Holley Carnright and the Sheriff’s Department, and the City of Kingston, and investigators from the Department of Social Services.
I didn’t play the political game, I put the people first. We’re proud of what we do for seniors. We…protected meals-on-wheels from cuts. Ulster pays a higher percentage of the bills for hot delivered meals for seniors than surrounding counties. We have protected the rights of seniors to choose to stay in their homes or go into nursing homes.
How does your experience make you a good candidate?
Two residents [of the nursing home] contracted Legionella. It was bacteria in the water system, and we corrected that quickly. I have experience in county government. I have listened to people.
At the Saugerties Transfer Station, Marie Post had old compactors, and working with the Resource Recovery Agency, I got her a better compactor, and got her a used one for cardboard. This has reduced costs for the station. When turbulent waters affected Saugerties, I worked with Mike Hein, chief of staff Adele Reiter, and the county attorney, to fight for the residents of the county and the people of Saugerties. They stopped the turbulent releases, and we’re working to get the water cleaned up. We need them to release water in dry weather, and we’re working on that. They are cleaning up the turbulence. They will let us know when they will release water and they will do clean water flushes to clear turbulence. I fought the battle to get the clean water flushes.
Describe the role of a county legislator. What effect does county government have on residents?
We are the keepers of the checkbook. We approve spending. We are the checks and balances. The county executive can’t set policies without our approval. He can’t spend money without our approval. I came into the legislature prepared to work with Mike Hein, and I do support him.
What specific policies will you advocate? How will these policies serve the interests of Saugerties residents?
On Route 9W, we have water and sewer, which we helped to bring in. We need to create PILOT programs to attract business. We have a railroad, but we don’t have a centralized loading center, which would help businesses. We need to invest in the future, to make the county competitive. We need to make the government serve the people. We have overtaxed them, and not provided all the services needed.
How would you rate the job performance of County Executive Mike Hein?
I think he’s a 9. He’s done a good job. He has a great staff. They are engaged, they are intelligent. Among them are chief of staff Adele Reiter, Bea Havranek, the county attorney and Art Smith, who manages the budget. Mike has put together a great team. We have other great people working for us, such as District Attorney Holley Carnright and county clerk Nina Postupack.
Do you think the balance of power between the executive and legislature is as it should be? Can there be more checks and balances?
Maybe on a few issues. Possibly when personnel are chosen, we might have more power of approval. The executive system is similar to state Legislature, or the Congress. Government has become more accountable. l