Kelly Myers was elected Saugerties Supervisor in November 2011, and took office at the beginning of 2012. This has been a tough year for Saugerties, with weather emergencies, fiscal difficulties and a board that has, at times, been at odds with her. We asked Myers to look back on her first year.
Has it been difficult to step into this job?
The learning curve was like jumping off a cliff. My first day in office I picked up the keys at the police station. I had no introduction, the files were removed from the office, the hard drive on the computer was cleaned off.
This is a very demanding job, and it doesn’t shut down at four in the afternoon. People call or send emails on the weekend. People sometimes stop me in the supermarket or on the street. Most times it’s fine; people are really wonderful here, and most times I don’t mind it. But sometimes when I’m out with my kids, and I just need some family time, I might direct people to call me at the office, but not very often.
It’s a privilege to be invited into people’s lives in a very personal way. I get to share joy with them, I get to share sorrows with them, and I cherish that. I could never have been part of people’s lives in the way that I am now. That is a blessing; even when it’s hard, it’s a blessing.
What do you feel you accomplished in your first year in office?
We passed a drug paraphernalia law, which was wonderful, to get the drug paraphernalia out of the convenience stores in the town. There was voluntary cooperation from many of the stores in the village, as well. We also passed our synthetic drug law, and it was one of the first in the country. Senator [Charles] Schumer had proposed a synthetic drug law, but it only named three substances. The research that I did named 32. It was significantly expanded.
When Senator Schumer’s proposed law went to committee some of the language was nearly identical to ours. I don’t want to be so bold as to claim that I wrote the state law, but if you look at them side by side you’ll see that 28 of the substances that he named are identical to the ones that we named and much of the language is nearly identical.
We bid out contracts. The Comptroller’s office cited the town last year for no-bid contracts. Contracts had been given to people and some of them had just run on for years, and continued to go up and be renewed. As each contract came up, we bid it. Some of that wasn’t easy because those relationships had been established for quite some time. In some cases, we proved to ourselves that we were already getting the best price; some actually stayed the same, even after the bid. That was OK because I could look you in the eye and tell you that was the best price.
We bid out the town insurance and found that the carrier we had been using all along actually offered the lowest price, $260,000. The other bid was about $350,000.
I’m really pleased about the professionalization of the police department. With the new chief I think people are getting better service. That’s really important. I think there’s a better responsiveness, there’s more accountability, there’s better training. On the other hand, I don’t think it had the savings that were sold to the town when they voted on closing the village department. The village did save. The village stopped paying us the $208,000 this year, so we had to absorb that. And there are additional costs for training, life insurance, police cars. Even if the overall cost is less, the town is absorbing more.
We settled the union contracts, that was great. The unions are understanding of the change in health plans (from MVP to CDPHP). The grievances regarding the health plans have been dropped.
We got a grant from the USDA to repair Drummond Falls. That’s $178,000. During the hurricane, there was so much water coming down from Greene County that the water almost reshaped the stream, so it filled up with debris and the bank eroded terribly. The stream was hitting the bridge abutment, and we wanted to save this bridge.
Given the need to cut costs, why is the town spending money on new equipment?
The highway and parks departments hadn’t bought equipment in years, and some of the employees were even driving their own cars. We squared away some of the equipment needs, which was very good.
Doug Myer had a fund balance and he also was really careful with his budget. The equipment for his department was paid for out of his budget, and we did not have to bond that out; it was great. Chorvas’s budget [Department of Parks, Recreation and Buildings Supervisor Greg Chorvas] was different because they hadn’t bought equipment for him in more than eight years, and when you have facilities like ours they go to pot if you don’t maintain them.
You have been very involved with Esopus Creek. What is happening with that issue?
Last winter they [New York City] had been releasing, and we had the public hearings this summer at SUNY New Paltz, and I testified. We have had very limited releases since then. I’m hoping that officially the EPA will declare the Esopus Creek an impaired waterway. There was so much damage by DEP [New York City Department of Environmental Protection], and they have not accepted responsibility for it, and there was no restitution for it.