Success or disaster?
In a recent letter to the editor (May 9, 2013), members of the League of Women Voters (LWV) reported on their recent panel discussion, “Town-Village Police Consolidation Revisited.”
The panel consisted of the Chief of Police Joseph Sinagra, Lieutenant Steven Filak as well as elected officials from the village and town. The Saugerties Village and Town board members all agreed that the consolidation was economically beneficial to the taxpayers. The LWV members remarked, “All panelists agreed that the Town and Village Police merger has been very successful. With increased training the quality and response time of the force has improved and there are plans to receive accreditation in the near future.”
Predictably, Joe Roberti Jr., chair of the Saugerties Republican Party in his own letter said, “Despite operational improvements, the facts show the police merger is a financial disaster…”. Mr. Roberti chose to continue his constant rant against Town Board members Bruce Leighton and Fred Costello Jr. for not providing “proper oversight over police spending.” Of course, Mr. Roberti fails to mention or blame Republican town Deputy Supervisor Jimmy Bruno who participated in the panel discussion and worked cooperatively with Leighton and Costello throughout the consolidation process.
Success or disaster, who will you believe? Do you trust the non-partisan LWV, our police leadership, bipartisan members of the Village and Town boards, or Mr. Roberti, and his ongoing desperate attempt to create a politically divisive issue where none exists?
Chair, Saugerties Democratic Committee
Force of law
Dave Gordon is correct in drawing a distinction between legally adopted laws such as the zoning law, building regulations and zoning regulations which require permits for work on private land to proceed and the Comprehensive Plan which provides the foundation on which these laws are based. However, I believe that Gordon’s statement in the May 9 issue of the Saugerties Times that the Comprehensive Plan “does not carry the force of law” is not correct. McKinney’s Consolidated Laws of New York states quite clearly “All town land use regulations must be in accordance with a comprehensive plan.” The plan “must provide for the present and future housing needs of a town’s residents [and] examine whether a housing deficiency exists . . . and provide for the possibility of construction of such units.” The law further states that “All plans for capital improvements of another government agency [such as a highway widening] on land included in the town comprehensive plan . . . shall take such plan into consideration.” The state law adds that the plan “shall take into consideration applicable county agricultural and farmland protection plans “ Finally, the proposed plan ‘’shall” be referred by the Town Board to the Ulster County Planning Board for “review and recommendation” prior to adoption (permissible, but not required). The Comprehensive Plan clearly carries the force of law.
The writer is vice chair of the Town of Saugerties Comprehensive Planning Committee.
Watchdog turned St. Bernard
Over the last several years I have followed the events about the Saugerties School Board and the Saugerties Teachers Union. Needless to say, I observed an element of contention whereby agreement could not be reached about contractual items, until just recently.
I was pleasantly surprised to find both sides recently came to a reasonable contractual agreement and all Teachers Union litigious filings were dropped. Congratulations to George Heidcamp’s School Board leadership through the long period of contention. It required much negotiation whereby the teachers, students and Saugerties taxpayers benefited. I would go so far as to say that if our federal and state elected officials negotiated as well as our School Board and teachers representatives, our country would be in a better place.
Good leadership by George and the Saugerties Teachers Union leader deserve accolades and should be congratulated for a job well done.
I first took the oath of office as a member of the Saugerties Central School District Board of Education on July 10, 2007. Since that time, I have volunteered thousands of hours to serve as an officer for the board (two years as vice president and four years as president). This commitment has been made because I feel that I am able to make decisions that are beneficial to the students of our schools, but are also mindful of the taxpayers in the community. Although I don’t usually point out the accomplishments of the district during my tenure as a member of the board, I feel that now is the time to remind people of some of what has taken place.
First, when I became leader, the prior administration had created a condition where the fund balance for the school district was almost a negative $1,000,000. That resulted in the district borrowing money in order to remain solvent, at an annual cost of more than $100,000 of taxpayer money to pay interest on the loans. We now have a fund balance of approximately $2.4 million, so the interest money can now be used more productively, either to lighten the tax burden or for the children – rather than the banks.
Next, I have played a part in hiring a competent administrative team, including the superintendent, assistant superintendent, business official(s), principals, and assistant principals. I pride myself in always trying to get the best person for the job, and avoiding the issues of nepotism that had at one time existed in the district. The following administrators have been hired since my time on the board: Lissa Jilek, Allen Olsen, LisaJane Kappler, Sue Osterhoudt, Don Dieckmann, Mike Apostol, and Seth Turner. Although traditionally underrepresented in administrative positions, Saugerties has six females serving in these roles (out of 13 positions).
In an effort to ensure that taxpayer dollars were not wasted, I have been involved in the building projects and other facility improvements. This has included major renovations to every school in the district, including new roofs, removal of underground oil tanks, repair of septic systems, and security upgrades. Although maintenance of the facilities is an ongoing job, the district has addressed the big issues – and now we are on a schedule for continuing to keep them in top condition. I must compliment the maintenance and custodial crews for their work, as they are on the front line every day making sure our students and teachers are able to work in a safe environment that is conducive to learning.
One particular issue that I became involved with had benefits for the neediest children across New York State. In 2009, Governor Paterson withheld money for schools that had been approved by the New York State Legislature. I personally participated in a lawsuit against the governor, which lead to a court ruling that the governor did not have the constitutional authority to withhold money. This freed up the state aid money in time for districts across the state to maintain their programs for the school year, preventing children from having to go without.
In addition to regular meetings, I have participated in contract negotiations, labor issues (including the Public Employee Relations Board), committee meetings, and crisis response teams. I have made tough decisions, but stand on my record as a public servant who has demonstrated a pattern of success. With each action, I think of the children first, and the overall good of the community of Saugerties. I hope you will come out and support me on Tuesday, May 21 in the School Board election. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.