Neil Bettez first ran for New Paltz Town Supervisor before it was cool for scientists to do things like that. There’s now a widespread call for people who understand science to enter politics, but he thinks they may be doing it wrong. “They should run for local office,” he said, because, “that’s where the quality of life is.” Left unsaid was the axiom that holding a local office better prepares one for a higher one.
While politics can be daunting to the neophyte, Bettez believes his grounding in data and their analysis has helped him campaign more effectively. It’s hard to dispute that, as he secured his first four-year term this November by a comfortable margin. He also tries to look at town issues through that same lens, identifying ways to eliminate inefficiency.
One idea that will come up in 2018 is holding town council and planning board meetings in the town courtroom, which is otherwise only used two nights a week. That’s already done in Marbletown and Shawangunk, among others, where elected officials sit at the same bench occupied by town justices when they preside over court. In New Paltz, however, that part of the idea didn’t fly with the justices, and board members will instead be sitting at a table. Nevertheless, it will free up two more nights in the community center for community activities.
It took most of 2017 to replace the Springtown rail trail bridge, and Bettez would prefer to avoid that problem in the future. He wants to know the condition of the other bridges, and come up with a plan to save money against the days when repairs are needed. The trail is very popular, and closing sections for long periods is never welcome.
Trail bridges are symptomatic of how Bettez wants to govern as he begins the first four-year term for a New Paltz supervisor. Budgets and projections for four or five years will paint a clearer picture of what expenses are on the horizon. Capital plans for high-expense departments, like highway and police, will be key to managing growing expenses over the long haul. Related to that, contracts are being renegotiated with those unions, and Bettez hopes to see terms that will be fair to workers, yet not chase taxpayers out of the area.
One set of town residents hit especially hard are those living in sewer district six. All expenses for such a district fall on the shoulders of those residents, and because that plant serves only a few dozen homes they pay three to five times what village residents do. In 2018, Bettez hopes the old district will be hooked into the village system, paying off debts incurred to service that equipment without increasing rates.
At the other end of town is the proposed water district five, which has been held up by legal action brought by three Plains Road residents. Bettez hopes that case will wrap up in town favor next year, allowing construction to begin on a district which will be funded by the people of New York City.
Like his neighbor, village mayor Tim Rogers, Bettez believes a joint municipal center will be good for the bottom line as well as the quality of life of town residents. Identifying money to pay for it continues to occupy his time.
Planning will be on the table frequently, as board members look to pass new zoning for the gateway area near the Thruway. Not unrelated is grant money which will be used to study congestion along Route 299 from Lloyd, where the Empire State Trail is proposed to run. The supervisor is also seeking county funding for a bicycle-pedestrian plan, and would like to see more of the 2006 transportation plan implemented.
2018 may be the year when town residents again get to use the Moriello Park playground and barbecues without paying to swim, although that might only come to pass when the pool is closed for the season. Town officials are also pursuing state funding for more athletic fields at town parks, and want to establish a permit through which people can bring food trucks to serve those families.
Among other aspirations are a tenant-protection law (which Bettez hopes will provide the same safety net as for those living in the village), purchasing of street lights from Central Hudson (which should pay for itself in three to four years), and securing a van to be used for the youth and senior-citizen programs, thereby eliminating the rental costs now incurred.