Jeff Logan is the WEP’s choice for New Paltz town supervisor

Jeff Logan (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Jeff Logan (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Editor’s note: Jeff Logan’s interview was held a week because when the New Paltz town supervisor profiles were assigned, Ulster County Board of Elections Commissioner Vic Work informed us about an issue with candidates running on the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) line. Work wrote: “The ballot has not been certified for the November 3 election. There is a lawsuit on appeal concerning the WEP, and those candidates may not, in fact, be on the ballot if the appeal is denied.” The issue is still not resolved, and Work informed the New Paltz Times early this week that a decision would not be received before the deadline for this week’s issue.  

 

New Paltz deputy town supervisor Jeff Loan is seeking to be elected to a two-year term as New Paltz’s town supervisor on the Women’s Equality Party (WEB) line. Logan lost the Democratic endorsement to Neil Bettez at a caucus on September 8. Here are some of the reasons why he’s running:

 

Why did you decide to run for office?

New Paltz simply cannot afford an inexperienced town supervisor. Like anything complex, there is a steep learning curve to the work of being an elected town official, and with no viable candidates stepping forward, I was asked to bring the knowledge and skills I have gained through years of public service and the understanding of New Paltz that comes from being raised here to continue the serious work that lies ahead for the community I invest in, raise another generation in and love and want to protect.

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The tried and true manner of people seeking higher elected office around here is to first seek extensive lower appointed positions and/or lower elected ones. Spend time on the village or town planning boards. Do a turn on the school board. Get yourself elected as a village trustee or town councilperson. Put in the time. Work your way up. Broaden and deepen your experience in this complex and multifaceted community. It’s working with other citizens over committing and demanding periods of time long after fun has left the room that the functioning of effective local government slowly begins to reveal itself.

It’s only by first putting in many hours at lower levels of responsibility that people invested in our community over the long term slowly learn the difference between easy, theoretical policy posturing that takes us nowhere and the hard work of crafting the kinds of real-world solutions necessary to move us forward. Pressing, complex, real-world situations, problems and opportunities come at our local officials in an uncontrolled flow on a daily basis: we need a new bridge over the Wallkill River; our town residents need permanent solutions to waste water; SUNY wants Wilmorite to build private dorms for it and Ulster County cuts a bad PILOT deal; the NYC DEP announces our aqueduct water supply will be interrupted and new sources must be found; Wildberry Lodge and CVS seek to develop large businesses on either side of the Thruway; the Town Hall is found to be uninhabitable and a new one, possibly combining town and village services under one roof, needs to be built; the police need a permanent building and a renewed union contract; the fire department wants an independent fire district; floodplain/wetlands protection regulations need tweaking; street lighting is ever more expensive; sidewalks and roads continue to crumble; traffic gets ever worse; the list goes on.

Each of these issues is now before the Town Board and each of these issues demands sound experience be brought to managing the myriad of interagency, intergovernmental, regulatory, policy and budgetary considerations in play. Managing these and all the other pressing issues before the board takes the kind of real-world policy, real-world regulatory and real-world relationships with local, county and statewide officials, regulators and citizens that only real time on the job can impart.

I have put in the long, necessary years of volunteer and elected service, have gained the necessary governmental experience and earned the necessary trust of our community to more than qualify me to be our next town supervisor.

 

What skills, experiences or qualifications do you have that make you believe you would make a competent supervisor?

As a multigenerational citizen of New Paltz, many of you already know and work with me across my various roles in the community as a Town Board member, local business owner, a youth coach, a ridge runner or as a bicyclist out on the early morning road on my way to work as a nurse.

I’m also currently serving my third term, eighth year, as town councilman as well as second year as deputy supervisor. Many of you have meet with me to discuss our town and have watched me fill in for the supervisor, as my role as deputy requires.

All these years on the Town Board have provided me with a thorough education and working knowledge of the many policy issues facing our town and village. But beyond the seemingly simple face of these issues lies the complex background workings necessary for good government to fulfill its responsibility to initiate and encourage great debate and then move forward to best-possible action. The steps required by responsible board members to turn the corner from debate to action are a basic requirement of the job and are seldom simple.

The intricate challenges, the give-and-take, the weighing of this-against-that of policy-making can at times be little in evidence at the regular monthly meetings when final recommendations are often made. Leading up to these final recommendations have been many, many prior meetings of the whole board or its various committees; joint sessions with any variety of interested parties. It’s during this often prolonged and almost always complex process where issues and opportunities are identified, ideas for solutions and directions are floated, concerns and recommendations are heard and many incremental decisions are taken by your elected representatives as we carefully work our way through the time necessary to arrive at a sound and supportable solution.

While some particular issue may seem frustrating and intractable one day, it can very well prove fruitful and energizing the next if approached with an experienced attitude that’s learned how to take the long view on things. And it’s the long view of experience that’s important here.

It’s been an often tough but thankfully gradual and always rewarding learning curve for me since first being elected to the Town Board in 2007. Knowing what I know now, taking on the responsibilities of town supervisor back then without the experience and thorough grounding I’ve gained over the years in local government would have been more than daunting. I didn’t set out on this road with the ambition of become supervisor. But now that I’ve arrived at this juncture I recognize that the invaluable experience that came before has prepared me in the best way possible for what I hope will come next.

 

How should New Paltz be developed in the future? Should it be kept more rural, or should it be more built out? What kind of businesses would you work to attract to town? What are your thoughts about Wildberry Lodge, CVS & Five Guys and the Mohonk Foothills project?

The characteristics of the town I value are the town’s scenic beauty, its small-town character and its location. The qualities that threatened these characteristics are traffic, impact of growth on the infrastructure of water and sewer and on open space and the cost of housing. Now, after discussing this with the community almost a decade ago while preparing a new comprehensive plan, our residents still hold the town’s beauty and natural setting among the qualities they value most and they still worry that the volume of traffic, the loss of open space and housing cost are among the biggest threats to the character of the community.

The comprehensive plan that was adopted in 1995 was updated, but not adopted in 2011. I, along with one other Town Board member, worked many hours to get a plan that matched what our community was looking to protect and cherish, and we were not the majority voice. Unfortunately, in the end and even with some excellent improvements over our last update, the plan did not provide what the community asked for or needed.

That plan thoughtfully and reasonably set out a mission and objectives for the Town of New Paltz over the planning horizon. Its mission was: “The Town of New Paltz places high value on its small-town feeling and wishes to retain the character of the town while enabling responsible growth.”

To accomplish this, the town will need the use of policies for residential land development that affirm environmentally sound planning, foster quality affordable housing alternatives, encourage sensitive growth of the tax base and channel higher-density development to areas with public sewer and water facilities and/or utilize the development of growth in areas to develop and maintain public infrastructure. Use of policies for economic growth that enable responsive and responsible growth while retaining the town’s unique features, protecting agriculture and natural resources. Prioritization of efforts to improve traffic and circulation throughout the town and parking conditions in its core. Retention and protection of historic structures and sites and the unique environmental features nature has accorded the region. Attention to maintenance of adequate public utilities that operate in a fiscally efficient manner and to environmentally sound management of the waste stream. Provision of appropriate recreational facilities for all ages within the bounds of affordability.

All of this needs to be considerate of the town as part of a larger environment region that requires cooperation among all parts to protect its assets and natural resources. The projects in front of our town Planning board are more than just the CVS/5 guys, Wildberry Lodge and Foothills project, the board still has the Willmorite development plan active, the OSI Bridge to Ridge project, improvements to ShopRite Plaza, to name the larger ones. And the near future will bring on more requests to develop larger housing projects that will require the through and dedicated scrutiny that our dedicated Planning Board provides.

The development of land in our community is guided by our planning and zoning laws and is a legal process that includes the SEQRA process. In New Paltz, we have shown that working with the developers, although some find it frustrating at times, produces what we cherish — the recent example is the development of the Hampton Inn on Sout Putt Corners Road. This is an example of how our board uses the planning process with community input, ensuring mitigation is developed and enforced and a project is developed to enhance our community. When a project does not meet the standards of the community and the mitigation process shows it does not meet our legal standards, then the development is either denied or sent back for more work, which we have done in the past and protected all that we love.

The Foothills project, the Bridge to Ridge project and other land use that conserves and enhances our open space, will support our community and protect the iconic vista we all love and enjoy. We are fortunate to be able to live at the gateway to one of the greatest open spaces in the country, and I will continue to encourage and support the protection of this great gift.

 

What’s your position on shared services and a shared municipal center?

There are many benefits which can be achieved if our local governments work together to provide services to the residents of New Paltz. We have already started the process of shared services years ago as the Town provides, Police, Justice Courts, Assessor, Youth Programming, Senior Programming, Recreation as sharing of services and labor with the Village DPW and all with great success. As localities strive to protect what makes them special, grow business and investment, we must do all we can to make our municipalities competitive and efficient. Cooperating, sharing services and consolidating services are all a necessary part of this effort. The development of a shared municipal center is one of the projects I look forward to continue to be part of and work to guide through the community process of developing and building. We are just now getting ready to invest in legal and design and the Town Board will continue to work with the Village and all our residents in development of a joint municipal building at Veterans drive location.

 

What are your ideas for long-term infrastructure repairs to water and sewer?

The water infrastructure is our number one priory for the community and we have the opportunity to have 10’s of millions of dollars of infrastructure, repairs and conservation to be paid for by the NYC DEP for the scheduled aqueduct shut down and maintenance. This is a project I have been working on as the lead to the NYC DEP along with the Village since January of this year. There has been much work done, and much more to be done, and the Towns responsibility of developing water backup systems during shut down periods at 2 locations will ensure this vital resource is available to all our residents, businesses and SUNY campus. The water supplied to the village from the town resources will also continue the growth of shared services as I have worked very closely with the current Mayor and Tom Rocco to make sure this resource protects the source of the water while providing the most efficient and cost effective delivery to the Village.

The building out of our sewer infrastructure has gone through many Phases since I have been on the board including study and grant applications to the state and county and most recently the application of using NY State Rising funds to upgrade and increase capacity at the Huguenot Street Waste Water treatment plant. The town has an inefficient and small sewage plant east of thruway in desperate need of replacement and in meetings with the Mayor I am happy to say he and his trustees would like to move forward on the Town sharing the current plant. I look forward to more progress on this as we continue to work together and meet with State funding officials and the DEC to harden the current facility and be able to offer improved service to those currently hooked up and plan for future growth.

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Would you consider reinstating the Police Commission?

The Police commission has never failed to exist. The vote to change from appointed positions to Town Board as PC was passed unanimously by the Town Board last year. The Town board is the Police Commission and meets monthly with the leadership of the Police Dept as the Police commission. The conversation of changing the structure of the PC from appointed to the Town Board, as is the structure the majority of Towns in NY, and to have the conversation as to returning it to appointed members without attending any of the meetings or discussing with Chief or Lt would be irresponsible. We are fortunate to have the leadership of Chief Snyder and the appointment of Lt. Lucchassi to lead the department, they are both dedicated professionals that grew up in new paltz and work with their dept. 24×7 to be the most professional and courteous officers to our residents and guests visiting and enjoying our Town.

I have proposed for several years the creation of a civilian review board that would work with the NPPD on interaction and outreach in the community, the future of this discussion I am more than happy to continue and propose but in the past it never seemed to get the majority of board to support.

The current structure has tremendously improved the communication between the leadership of the NPPD and the Town Board. The ability to hire, do budgets, make budget requests, discuss assets and celebrate in the hiring of new individuals has paid back and saved the community in efficiency and actual dollars. The total budget of the NPPD is almost one third of the total town budget and to abdicate that responsibility to individuals not elected to watch those purse strings and have limited abilities to me seems irresponsible.

 

What are the top three challenges facing the Town of New Paltz right now?

1) Water. As I descried above, water for our community during the scheduled shutdown periods and should there ever be an emergency that required other shut downs of water to community having a backup system available and ready.

2) Wastewater/sewer management. As I already pointed out the Town has a system in distress already and with future projects and current projects in front of the planning boards, so let’s continue to work with the Village leadership to use Town and Village State funding to harden and upgrade village plant to allow greater wastewater volume to be processed.

3) The Budget. In the cap environment it has been a challenge to develop and maintain our budgets. Over the last 3 years we have stayed under the cap with running very austere budgets. This year with a cap of 0.73% the budget worked on and presented to Board shows we can maintain services and give taxpayers relief through the NYS circuit breaker credits by staying below cap. The budget preparation next year will have the same and even greater challenges as the cost of healthcare continues to increase and the need for a municipal center will require the work of all the board and department heads to stay within a cap that will be very close to 0.00%.

 

What will be your top three priorities when you begin as supervisor in January?

As I have previously stated through this interview, the job of Supervisor is complex requiring many skills and the setting of priorities is based on the needs the community. The providing of services and budgeting of these will also be a priority.

The first priority will be to continue the work I have been doing on water and sewer in our community, these are critical to the health safety and welfare of all. The work ahead will include the design and implementation of structure and the coordination of the Village, Town and NYC DEP.

The second priority is to continue the work on our infrastructure with the Village and county officials. One of these is we have the Carmine Liberta Bridge project starting next year and the coordination of many agencies will be required to ensure our already busy streets continue to flow and the disturbance to our local businesses and residents is minimal. The opportunities that come with this include developing parking and traffic calming and I look forward to working with many government heads and our own boards and commissions on these.

The continued work on the Joint master plan with the Village. This project has been started and stopped now for a few years and for reasons beyond the control of the current boards. The Town revised the master plan in 2011 without adopting. The town and village tried to work on a joint master plan 2 years ago and in the process lost the planner. The hiring of the current Village planner was done along with the Town in the hopes of sharing his services to guide us through the plan, his time currently is needed in the Village and should this prove to not be a workable solution we need to get together and seek out ways to fund a joint plan that reflects the goals and values of New Paltz.

 

To read about what New Paltz town supervisor hopefuls Neil Bettez and Bob Gabrielli had to say in last week’s issue of the New Paltz Times, visit newpaltzx.com.

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