Fred Costello has been on the town board in Saugerties for thirteen and a half years, and has been deputy supervisor for eleven of them. Costello business interests include Sue’s Restaurant, apartments in Glasco, a car wash and a barber shop. Fred’s father mostly handles the car wash and the barber shop, and Fred is in charge of Sue’s Restaurant and the apartments.
Prior to being elected to the town board, Costello served on the town’s economic development committee. He attended Ulster County Community College and the State University of New York in New Paltz. While he did not graduate, his studies in international relations and economics are part of his background. “I attended a study mission in Israel, and learned how different the rest of the world is,” he said. “After spending the time in Israel, I realized that we are special.”
Costello is married. He and his wife Marie have a 14-year-old daughter.
Costello is endorsed by the Democratic Party, the Independence Party and the Working Families Party.
Why does he want the town supervisor’s job?
“I worked very closely with Greg [supervisor Greg Helsmoortel], and I’ve had a lot of experience with the budget, and experience in management,” he said. “As the position is going to be vacant, I’m uniquely qualified to do this. A part of it was Greg is not going to be there, and my skill set means I am more prepared than anyone else.”
He said that right now he has the opportunity to step back from his family business. “I don’t know how long that will last, but right now I have the opportunity to do both things,” he said.
Costello sees Helsmoortel’s style as a supervisor as a model for him. “He never played politics,” Costello said. “He kept us informed of what was going on, and we used the information equally. I think that’s a perfect mode. The other thing about Greg that I admire, is that he was very easy to disagree with. There have been occasions when we have disagreed on an issue, strongly debated it, reached opposite conclusions. And that never influenced the next conversation that needed to happen.”
“The stories that have been positive for Saugerties have been when the government has partnered with interested businesses and seen them through the zoning process, the planning and the environmental,” he said. Kings Highway would be ideal for those types of partnerships. “We need to be responsive and maintain the idea that Saugerties is open and welcoming to businesses consistent with our comprehensive plan, and there are a whole bunch that are,” he said. “Some of the zoning changes we made earlier in the year were to try to make the Kings Highway corridor a little bit more attractive. I’m proud that we were sensitive to some of the needs that have been expressed by other interested parties and brokers, and hopefully in the near future we’re going to see some real development.”
Achievable small changes in government would enhance the performance of the town overall, one being an employee handbook and fully implementing the accounting system. “It’s largely implemented,” he said. “but there are some areas we do not use, and I feel strongly that we should. Once it’s established it would save labor and it will be more transparent for everyone. It would give department heads more tools to help them manage their budgets through the course of the year.” The system would enable the town to monitor expenses through the year, and give the board a clearer picture when the next year’s budget is created.
“The handbook is important, too. Each union negotiates their own contract, and that covers 95 percent of the terms of employment, but there are some inconstancies and not everybody is represented by a union. The handbook would serve as a catchall, and I that ‘s good for employees so they have the right idea of what the town expects, and it’s good for the employer so there is standardization in how things that are not covered contractually are handled.”
There are always challenges, beginning with the tax cap. “Financially that’s difficult to do, and for the most part we have been able to do that, and we hope to continue,” he said. “That presents its own level of challenges.”
There’s at least one zombie home in every neighborhood that through abandonment or foreclosure and that home’s lack of maintenance is impacting the neighborhood.
“It may take legislation to get a handle on this,” said Costello. “For instance if there’s a corporation that holds a mortgage from out of state, it is difficult to get to that company. I believe there needs to be a mechanism for the building department or the town board to authorize work or repair to be done and that would go onto the assessment of the property as a lien. I think that’s appropriate because if you take a ride through the community there are a number of homes that have fallen into a state of abandonment and are not receiving maintenance or are in some stage of foreclosure and are not receiving maintenance.”
The issue affects neighbors, as small animals take up residence, trees may fall onto a neighbor’s property, or people may be seen going in or out and nobody knows who they are. At some point we would do the work, and the cost would be added to the assessment as lien. Sooner or later, the owner will want to sell the property, and as part of that process, the liens for whatever maintenance had to be done would be part of that cost, the candidate said
“I really want to get Small World [playground] rebuilt,” he said. “We’ve had some starts and stops, but it’s an important project. It’s very sentimental to a lot of people who are participating in the first project and we owe it to their legacy to try to have an event like that again and try to get it rebuilt. There are grants available and we are trying to raise the local match, but we don’t want to raise taxes because not everybody would use it.”
Costello has worked on broadband.before. “Verizon now has a wireless system that they may or may not be willing to deploy,, but it’s being piloted right now. There are also other options that are proving viable. Margaretville Phone Company [MTC] is a model we at least should look at, and see if a company like that would be willing to come into Saugerties and provide internet to our entire town. It’s frustrating for someone who lives a few hundred feet from a line, and would have to pay $10,000 to hook up.”
Costello is convinced that there are places “where we can pick up on some positive things and move the ball forward.” It will be really exciting to be part of that, he said. “There are always challenges, and our government should be ready to meet those challenges.”