Come January 1, Marybeth Majestic embarks upon a second-term-that-almost-wasn’t as Gardiner town supervisor. On Election Night, a miscount of two districts sent her home with the impression that she had been defeated by a narrow margin by Democratic challenger Lisa Lindsley. It wasn’t until the final count of absentee ballots ten days later that Majestic could feel secure that she would continue in her post. As it turned out, she had carried the election by a 20-vote margin.
The tightness of that vote can be construed as evidence of a deep divide amongst Gardinerites on the subject of how to handle land development — especially at present, when multiple proposals for large-scale developments are keeping the town’s planning and zoning boards busier than they might wish, not to mention drawing standing-room-only crowds to public hearings. Majestic concedes that she has a fine line to walk on this issue. “The most difficult thing is to balance everything,” she says, noting that Ulster County saw a $21 million increase in tourism last year. Gardiner’s natural beauty, it seems, can also be its Achilles’ heel.
Adding to the town’s challenges in 2018 is the fact that several boards and committees have empty seats; a couple — the Open Space and Ethics committees — are dormant altogether; and Gardiner is among the few towns in the area that don’t even have an Economic Development Commission. However, Majestic seems optimistic that her recent efforts to revive these municipal bodies are beginning to pay off.
Deputy supervisor Laura Walls is her point person for “working with an ad hoc committee on rewriting the Ethics Law,” Majestic reports, with former longtime Ethics Committee chair Jon Simonson willing to stay on through the process. The supervisor said that three community members had indicated interest in working on the rewrite, which may include reducing the size of the committee from nine members to five. “The law needs to be tightened up a little, to make it easier to use,” she says, adding, “Fortunately, we haven’t had an ethics complaint since I’ve been in office.”
Working in the supervisor’s favor toward getting the Open Space Commission out of mothballs is the fact that Warren Wiegand, who served for a long time as its chair and has repeatedly called for its reinstitution, will be joining the Town Board in January. “Warren’s going to work with me on getting that up and running,” says the supervisor. “Warren’s a worker bee. He’s a dedicated councilperson who gives the time the job requires…. I think there’ll be some energy that has been lacking.”
Wiegand’s departure from the planning board, however, means another opening to be filled on that body, whose notoriously heated deliberations make volunteering a commitment not for the faint of heart. Earlier this month Majestic took a first step toward clarifying Gardiner’s zoning law by bringing the town, planning and zoning boards together for a joint meeting to strategize a process toward streamlining those sometimes-confusing guidelines. “We’re working with the attorneys on how to do that, with input from the boards. It should be a collaborative effort for it to be successful. It could take as long as a year, but I would hope that it wouldn’t take that long…. I want to approach it as diligently as we did the Solar Law, and keep it very transparent.”
While the reconfiguring is in process, the supervisor faces a number of practical challenges in the coming year — and like many towns hereabouts, infrastructure needs are the most pressing. “Trying to find money to fix the Clove Road Bridge is my top priority to get done this year,” Majestic says. Applications are due on January 25 for a share of the $3.7 million allocated for roads and bridges in Ulster County from the federal Transportation Improvement Program. “The county has made the application easy. We have had documents prepared by our engineer, Morris Associates.”
The cost of the bridge fix is estimated at about half a million dollars, according to Majestic. There’s no funding for it allocated in the 2018 town budget, and the clock is ticking. “If you went underneath that bridge, you’d be terrified. It’s just a temporary fix from the ‘90s,” she says. “The New York State Department of Transportation has yellow-flagged that bridge for eight years now, maybe nine. If they red-flag it, the town might have to close it down.”
Other, less urgent infrastructure needs in Gardiner include a review of the capacity of the Sewer District in the hamlet, with an eye toward the possible need to expand it at some point in the future. Meanwhile, the supervisor has made arrangements to redirect a $50,000 grant originally awarded to expand parking for the ballfield adjacent to Town Hall, to be used instead for improvements to the pole barn and pavilion in George Majestic Memorial Park. The pole barn’s bathrooms currently don’t even have dividers between the toilet stalls, she notes. Improvements to the kitchen and installation of an ultraviolet water treatment system are also needed to make the space more functional for Gardiner’s summer recreation program. “I’ll be very excited to get that work done. I want it to start as soon as the weather gets warm in the spring. In the meantime, we’ll get a contractor lined up.”
Also on Majestic’s agenda for 2018 is to evaluate the draft Aquifer Overlay Law that was recommended by Gardiner’s Environmental Conservation Commission several years ago, but never enacted. “Now the Town Board will take a look at it, though we’re going to need some scientific assistance,” she says. “It’s pretty dense.”
Getting more volunteers involved in making Gardiner function more smoothly is also high on her list. “It would be great to have younger people involved in government at every level,” she notes, adding that she’s “always interested in what people have to say. I can’t be effective unless I know what’s on people’s minds.” ++