WEB EXCLUSIVE: Rosendale supervisor runs unopposed

Jeanne Walsh

Jeanne Walsh

First-term incumbent Jeanne Walsh is running unopposed this November for re-election as Rosendale town supervisor, having obtained the endorsements of the Democratic, Republican, Conservative and Independent Parties. Here’s a bit of what makes her tick:

Why did you decide to run for office?

Mostly because I started some projects that I really wanted to see happen and I’d like to be able to finish those. Some of them are the improvements to the water system and other infrastructure that I felt Rosendale really needed some help with. There was a lot of unfinished business, so I felt that I needed to focus on those things: the Binnewater Dam, even the Williams Lake Project. I just want to see things moving forward.

I’m very thankful that I’m getting the support from all four parties. It’s very nice to be able to continue to focus on my job — on getting my work done instead of the campaign.

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What positions, experiences or skills do you believe will make you a competent supervisor?

I was on the Planning Board for nearly 10 years. It was in 2002 that I started and I finished in 2012 when I took office. I really enjoyed the work. I like land-use issues and how to resolve them. And I know for a fact that that helped me immensely when I moved into the supervisor’s position. A lot of land-use issues are dealt with at that level too. Understanding SEQR [State Environmental Quality Review], understanding the processes that have to be done was a big help.

I’ve been a business-owner; I’ve managed property. My brother and I owned a bicycle shop in town: Table Rock Tours and Bicycles. I’ve been here all my life. I had a couple of years at Ulster [County Community College], but I’m mostly self-taught. I have two sons, 27 and 29; I never would’ve done this when they were little. I made the decision to do this afterwards — started out doing the Planning Board and other things. We always did community service of some kind. My husband and I helped run the Street Festival for about four or five years. My cousin Jill and I helped run the hospitality booth every year during that time. We were always involved in something, and one thing led to another: “Come join the Planning Board!”

 

Do you support the creation of a special category of zoning for the Williams Lake Project?

The zoning amendment is a collaboration of comments and work done by the Planning Board, the Zoning Board, the Environmental Commission, the County Planning Board and the Town Board, who all carefully looked at and helped to develop the comments that were needed to help the board make decisions about amending the first draft of the zoning amendment that was presented to us. I think we now have a good document that will both promote the project and protect the town.

 

Would you support a PILOT agreement for Hudson River Valley Resorts, if they request it?

I can’t really comment on that at this time. At this point I don’t have any information on that, so it would be just a big guess. I would have to wait to see what was presented before the board.

 

What’s your vision of how Rosendale should be developed in the future?

I definitely would like to see the Route 32 corridor redeveloped, wherever it’s needed. I’m hoping to come up with some ideas for that when some of the other projects we’re working on slow down a little bit.

For me it’s about having a place where people can enjoy the quality of life and I think Rosendale is headed that way. We want to have an environment that we can all enjoy. A balance of economic development and environmental protection is important.

Eventually I feel that Rosendale’s going to be a destination for recreation. With the new trestle opened, the rail trail through Williams Lake, the connectivity plan that we’re doing with the Ulster County Transportation Council and hopefully with the new way station at the pool, we’ll be able to have a place where people will come as a destination: “Let’s go to the Walkway Over the Rondout and enjoy the day – or stay.” You know, there are nice hotels and B&Bs in our community now. We like to see people come here to recreate. It has always been part of the plan for Rosendale.

One of the problems we’ve had is that the big-box stores and the grocery stores don’t see the demographics. But I don’t think they’re really looking at everything. We’ve got quite a few zip codes in Rosendale. I think there’s a way. Some rezoning and some redevelopment encouragement programs on 32 are what we need. I’m hoping that we can head in that direction — maybe next year. I have some ideas about floating zones, but it’s a little premature to talk about it.

 

How do you plan to address long-term infrastructure needs like water system repairs and upgrades?

I’m very excited. It’s very promising that we’re going to get some grant money to help with our water upgrades. Our system is in very bad shape and you can’t just keep turning your head, saying, “Let’s ignore it” and make believe it’s not there. We’ve had some serious infrastructure problems with our water — and with our sewer, too. Last year we replaced three lift stations in the town and that was due to failure. I’m hoping we can get a new water system up and running before we have a major failure. So we’ll start being proactive and anticipating that we’ll have to fix these things. We’ve gone forward, we’re getting the application done for this close-to-$3-million project.

I was surprised that more people weren’t up in arms that there wasn’t work being done to the water and sewer. You need clean water and you need healthy sewer systems in your community; otherwise you have a polluted community. For me, it’s not just infrastructure — it’s environmental protection. If you don’t have good water, you don’t have anything. It was important to me to take care of that — especially after visiting the facilities and seeing how bad they were.

The good thing about this is that we’ve done the evaluation and it’s not going to raise taxes. The ratepayers will pay, and the number looks like it’s going to be about $50 a year [average per household]. That’s a small increase for the amount of improvements that they’re going to get: less than $5 a month to have good water. That’s giving back to the community in a big way, I think.

Right now we have so many repairs — and that has been ongoing — and they’ve been paying in taxes for the repairs. If something breaks down and there’s no budget for it, it gets rolled over onto their tax bill. I was very disappointed that I had to do an emergency repair for the lift stations last year. You’re not getting a good deal when you do that. We don’t want that to happen with the water. It was really clear when I looked at the numbers that were spent on repairs that those same numbers could be spent on prevention. And you don’t get the support from the state unless you bundle the projects together. It’s a better application that way.

 

What would be your strategy for funding replacement of the town pool?

We did a Consolidated Funding Application for the pool in August to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. That’s a $500,000 matching grant toward the $1.2 cost. If we can get that grant, I think that we can head in the right direction to get the pool. I think that there are a lot of people waiting to see if we get the grant before they make any commitment of other funds toward the pool. Hopefully we’ll see some more donations once we get to that point.

The little donations are still important to me, because I wanted the community to be involved. For some people, that’s all they can do and we’re thankful for that. We want them to remember that this is their community pool. Many, many people here raise their children at that pool; I am one of them. I’m sad to see that the kids are missing out right now on what I think is an important part of growing up in this community, so I want to bring that back.

The new pool will also be handicapped-accessible, with an easier entrance.

 

What do you see as the top three greatest challenges facing the Town of Rosendale right now?

All the things that you make a priority, they’re also a challenge. They’re kind of tied together. I think that everything that you set as a goal, you have to be confident that you’ll achieve the goal. You take one step at a time till you get it done.

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The pool is definitely a challenge, but I’m committed to getting it done.

Williams Lake: That’s a challenge; that’s also a top priority. I’m confident that we’ll get that accomplished also. The fact that the SEQR review is done — that’s big. We’ll get the rest of it done. That’s the town’s obligation. Now that it’s done, I hope that the people who were concerned about it can see that all the concerns have been examined exhaustively and that they’ve been addressed, and put some people’s fears to rest.

The water system was more of a challenge that I took on, and I’m feeling a lot more comfortable now about where we’re going.

 

If elected, what would be your top three priorities?

The pool might take a little while, but I’m committed to getting it done. I guess you could say that’s one of my top three priorities.
I’m pretty close to getting the Binnewater Dam decommissioned. I expect that to wrap up soon, because we just advertised for the permits. It’s a priority because it’s a safety issue. The neighborhood’s at risk now, so we want to get that taken care of. I feel more confident that it’s going to happen. We’re getting close to the finish line now.

The water system is a priority also.

I believe that Williams Lake is good for the town. I think that it’s a sound project that’s going to be beneficial, both financially and I think it’s proven already, by the opening of the rail trail, that’s it’s also considering the good of the rest of the community and not just the people who are going to be living there.

When I talk about redevelopment, it’s about bringing things back better — whether it’s 32 or it’s Williams Lake. Even the water system is a redevelopment project.

I look at things, I say, “This is what I think needs to be done,” I tackle it, and some people are going to like it and some people aren’t. So you hope that people think that you’re doing the right thing. My motives are to do what’s best for the community. You listen to what people have to say and you take their comments into consideration and try to find a balance. I think that’s what it’s about. ++