‘I have nothing personal against Bill Murphy [mayor William Murphy],” said village trustee Donald Hackett. “This is just business,”
Hackett’s issues with the mayor, he said, have to do with the way the village is being run. Hackett favors greater integration of the town and village, removal of weeds on the Esopus to help promote tourism, and regular safety inspections of apartment buildings
While he is not committed to complete town-village consolidation, Hackett said he believes the issue should be studied. “If we could save 75 percent through consolidation, we should do it. If we could save 15 or 20 percent, we would have to look at it more closely,” he said.
Hackett cited the consolidation of the town and village police forces as a good example of what can be accomplished. “People want a thorough study of the village and the town, to go through the budgets and compare costs,” Hackett said. Eight years after consolidation, the cost of the combined police force is still only slightly more than the cost of maintaining separate departments, Hackett said. The service is at least as good as it was with separate departments, he asserted.
“When I first got involved in politics, I was looking for ways to consolidate with the town,” Hackett said. He cited the late former mayor Robert Yerick’s support for consolidation of the village and town police forces. Yerick had supported continuing the consolidation of town and village services, but Hackett said that integration has since come to a halt.
Hackett said his fellow trustees, though intelligent people, were often too ready to simply follow Murphy’s lead. There should be more give and take on the board, he said.
Among the specific issues Hackett touched on were tourism, a village-town committee to study consolidation, a possible separate authority to manage water resources, and weed removal on the Esopus. Hackett noted that other areas with attractive waterways drew large numbers of tourists, and if weed-free the Esopus Creek could do the same for Saugerties. He met a man at a conference who offered to demonstrate his weed puller this spring or summer. Since the $75,000 machine pulls weeds up from the roots rather than cutting them off , the weeds would not grow back.
If elected, Hackett said he would work more closely with town officials, he said. In particular he would speak frequently with town supervisor Fred Costello.
Hackett proposed a committee that would include officials from both town and village. Its tasks could involve nature preservation near the creek. Iterested citizens could study consolidation and recommend shared services.
Water, he said, was a particularly thorny issue. Rather than cede complete control to the town, the village’s water department be set up as a separate authority.
Hackett wants to see every multi-family building in Saugerties inspected at least once every two years to address such safety concerns as unblocked ingress and egress, electrical systems, fire alarms and sprinklers, carbon dioxide detectors and structural soundness. Building inspector Eyal Saad would not be able to do this massive job on his own, Hackett acknowledged. The village would need to hire extra help, paid for through an inspection fee charged to building owners.
“We had a tragedy, and we need to stop tragedies,” he said, referring to a fire fatality in a building on Russell Street in April. Hackett sees a $250-per-inspection for a building he owns in Kingston as a worthwhile expense to be sure his property and his tenants are safe, he said. Saugerties could adopt a similar fee to pay for inspections that would help ensure the safety of buildings in the village.
Hackett has served on the village board for nine years. He is a member of the American Legion, the Elks Lodge, and serves on the board of Ulster County Community Action, an organization that supports such community services as Head Start, weatherization and other help for lower-income residents.
The village and town need to be more active in seeking grants to pay for necessary and desirable projects, Hackett said. He praised Alex Wade, the village’s grantswriter, and Vernon Benjamin, who does a similar job for the town. Working together, they could help pay for many of the community’s needs.
Hackett is running for mayor on the Unity Party Line. The incumbents plus Stephen Joseph Beckert are running on the New Vision line.
Hackett is a lifelong Saugerties resident, and a graduate of Saugerties High School. He earned an associate degree in applied science, with a specialty in environmental science at Ulster County Community College. He has worked with an engineering firm that specialized in air quality, and then in the water and wastewater department of Rhinebeck.