After the absentee ballots were counted, Fred Costello Jr. was ready to celebrate his sweeping 58 percent win in the race for Saugerties town supervisor. But the supervisor-elect needed to begin to consider what he might be able to accomplish during his two-year term.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I think [our newly elected town board has] a nice representation of experience and perspective, and I think it’ll be nice when we create public policy to represent what the town may want,” said Costello. “Their perspective is about Saugerties’ future, and they’re willing to work towards that. I’m willing to move that ball forward for as long as we can.”
Costello ran against fellow his town board member, friend and distant cousin Jimmy Bruno. While Costello would have served an additional two years on the town board had he lost the election, Bruno’s term will conclude at the turn of the year.
“I don’t think it’s affected our relationship in the long term,” said Costello. “I think over time we’ll still be good friends.”
Of the 13 and a half years that Fred Costello has been on the town board, eleven were spent as the town’s deputy supervisor. He served on the town’s economic development committee. He is the owner of Sue’s Restaurant in Barclay Heights and of several apartments in Glasco, a barber shop and a car wash. He studied international relations and economics at SUNY New Paltz, and is married. He and his wife have a 14-year-old daughter.
“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 in an interview in August. “As the position [of supervisor] 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.”
Costello will take his oath of office on January 1. Between now and then, there are preparatory measures he must take after taking down his campaign signs and thanking his constituents.
“I’ll do the same [webinar] classes that [all the town board members] do. There’s a bunch of crossover there. There’s a [training session] at the capital in January. You go up for the day, and I’ll come home at night.”
He expects to learn a lot. “Almost everything [is covered in those sessions] — they explain what the responsibilities of a town supervisor is and cover a lot of stuff — auditing, DEC stuff, recreational opportunities,” he said. “There are more classes offered than you can take, so you need to pick. The boards are afforded a lot of resources, and that’s beneficial for anyone taking office. It’s an opportunity to exchange ideas and see how other communities have handled issues. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. It gives you perspective.”
He wants to implement an employee handbook for local government staff and shift to the new accounting system that would allow better expense monitoring throughout the year.
Among his longer-term goals is a review of local zoning codes.
“Certain structures require an elevator. In my view, an elevator … should be able to accommodate a gurney,” said Costello as an example. “As we move forward, that’s an opportunity for new construction. Also, there needs to be lockout boxes so that fire services can respond to a call and gain access to that area. Our zoning law can prescribe that if we wanted it to, and I think [it] should. When a project gets to the planning process, if we didn’t apply the right rules that’s our fault.”
Also on Costello’s radar are the findings of the Saugerties Area Mobility Analysis (SAMA), completed in 2007 at the behest of the Ulster County Transportation Council. It identified problematic roads and intersections and roads in Saugerties. These include a treacherous intersection on Malden Turnpike, the railroad crossing on Tissal Road, and the interchange by the Thruway.
“These areas have been identified by SAMA. That gives us a blueprint. We need to pick some projects we think we can actually achieve. If we’re lucky, over the next couple years we can do one or two [of these road projects],” said Costello. “If we bring eight projects to the transportation council, we won’t get any of them done. If we bring one or two, we have a pretty good shot.”
Close to Costello’s heart is the long-discussed replacement of Small World park at Cantine Field. The project should cost around $200,000, according to Costello, $80,000 of which he hopes to raise through organizations like the Saugerties Community Foundation.
“There’s a big effort in the community to try to replace Small World,” he explained. “It’s a Leathers-style playground. We would like to replace it with a modern version of that style. There are grants for that, but we need to raise money locally to match the grant. We may ask some groups that raise money for other things to help with that cause. It’ll be cumulative.”
The Saugertiesian who will assume Costello’s vacated seat come January has yet to be determined. The individual will be appointed by Costello and the rest of the town board at the turn of the New Year.
“I think individually all four of us who will have that decision have individual thoughts on that,” Costello said. “We will come towards some consensus on that in the near future. Dozens and dozens of people have come forward. This weekend was the first time we’ve had conversations about [the appointment].”
Costello ended the interview on an optimistic note: “I feel that Saugerties is on a good trajectory for a lot of things. I like that it’s a good place to raise families and a place that you can make your living. I want to expand on that and create more economic opportunity.”