Saugerties supervisor race heats up

Fred Costello, Jr. and Paul Andreassen

The Saugerties Town Supervisor race has taken to the letters to the editor section. Both challenger Paul Andreassen and incumbent Supervisor Fred Costello Jr. flung written attacks at each other this week. According to Andreassen, Costello misused taxpayer funds to finance a trip from his vacation spot on Cape Cod to a court hearing in Kingston.

A few days later, Costello blasted Andreassen for the councilman’s abstention on a vote last month concerning the Kiwanis Ice Arena, writing that Andreassen let the town down by not contributing his expertise to the deliberations surrounding the rink’s repair.

According to Andreassen’s letter, Costello put in for a $500 mileage reimbursement after, on Aug. 12, the supervisor vacated his vacation to return to Kingston to attend a court hearing on the Karolys matter.

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“The meeting was not critical and the outcome would have been the same whether he attended or not,” Andreassen wrote. “If this were an anomaly or an isolated incident of policy misinterpretation or wasteful spending, I wouldn’t be worrying about it. But it’s not. It’s more than that. It’s wrong. I believe the town supervisor should refund the town for his travels and work with me and the other board members to eliminate policy loopholes and strengthen clear penalties for intentional breach of the public trust.”

After this reporter inquired about the expenditure, Costello shot back, writing that Andreassen “once again is trying to reinvent history” and questioned his opponent’s motives for abstaining from a vote on whether to replace the dilapidated roof of the Kiwanis Ice Rink. 

Both Andreassen and Costello have ample prior experience — the former as a longtime building inspector/code enforcement officer in Saugerties as well as in three other towns including Woodstock and New Paltz; the latter as a town councilman for 14 years before ascending to his current position. In 2017, Andreassen accrued 4,056 votes of 5,530 total votes cast before absentee ballots were counted in his 2017 bid for town council. (John Schoonmaker came in second place on election night votes with 2,175.)

Since then, the town board has experienced a gradual rift, openly acknowledged by both candidates now that they are political opponents. After months of across-the-board “yes” votes on virtually every motion that the board considered, the two began to disagree publicly — first regarding the replacement of a police dog and then regarding the manner in which the deteriorating Kiwanis Ice Arena should be handled.

As the rift got bigger, so apparently did Andreassen’s will to run, culminating in a press release announcing his candidacy on March 2. Since, Andreassen and Costello have remained stiffly amicable at board meetings, until this week’s exchange of letters to the editor.

Costello conceded this week that he did put in for a $500 mileage reimbursement on Aug. 12 to attend the second session of hearings in state Supreme Court to determine the fate of a stop-work order on dumpsites owned by Saugerties resident Joe Karolys. Records obtained from the Saugerties Town Clerk through a Freedom of Information Act request determined that this number is actually slightly lower, at $476 — 58 cents per mile.

“I can’t speak for every town, but it’s not uncommon for supervisors to get a vehicle allowance or a vehicle — I haven’t taken either.” said Costello. “The only thing I’ve taken so far is I requested a mileage reimbursement for my trip coming home from Cape Cod. I [didn’t] have to be [present], but it was only the second or the third hearing and I felt it was important that I be present, especially given the level of public interest in this. The town has invested a considerable amount of resources into this effort, and I didn’t want the perception of the court to be that we weren’t serious.”

According to other documents FOILed from the town clerk to verify this precedent, previous town supervisor Greg Helsmoortel got a $4,000 yearly mileage reimbursement. Similarly, former town supervisor Kelly Myers received $4,500 in mileage reimbursement. Costello said although he has taken frequent trips to Kingston and Albany for town-involved matters, he has done so on his own dime until now.

“[Until now] I have not taken any vehicle allowance,” said Costello via text message before the documents were received. “The mileage request for attending court was my first and only request. I guess I could argue that I have saved the budget over $7,500 over the past two years.”

After the interview, Costello sent in a letter to the editor criticizing Andreassen’s decision to abstain from the vote to approve a $1.3 million dollar repair to the Kiwanis Ice Arena in June.

“Through recreation fees, parking revenue, pledges by Kiwanis, pledges by others, grants from [state] Senator [George] Amedore and former Assemblyman [Pete] Lopez, 70 percent of the $1.3 million dollar budget for the project has been secured,” wrote Costello. “The balance of costs associated with the project will be assessed against ice rink revenues over the next few years. The use of ice rink revenues to pay for improvements to the facility is nothing new. Ice rink revenues have paid for many past improvements including the rink’s current roof, the concrete floor, the Zamboni and more. As a result of becoming fully insulated, a significant savings in energy will also be realized and the opportunity to operate a year round facility will exist. 

Thecombination of being able to host in excess of 1,000 people and operating a year-round facility will greatly enhance the ability for the ice rink to grow revenue well in excess of $350,000.”

Costello went on to write that Andreassen could have contributed useful expertise to the decision, given his experience as a building inspector, and that, despite his explanation at the time for abstaining, Andreassen had access to all of the information that the other board members had regarding the repairs, and even had additional conversations with professionals advising the board on the project that he “chose not to disclose or report” to the rest of the board. 

“I didn’t have enough information and I didn’t have a chance to see what this contract even was,” said Andreassen after the June 20 vote. “It was a single bidder which was a little unsettling, and it would have been better to have several more to compare again. I had proposed and sent drawings for a more permanent type of structure, like a concept, and that was last year and no one but Mike MacIsaac responded. It would have cost more than the one proposed … but the ones that I submitted would have been year-round. The town is settling for what we have and what we’re going to go forward with, and again, there are five members on the board, they have the ability to vote whichever way they want. I’m not anti-ice arena, I’m not anti-skating, I have family members who play hockey. I abstained, I didn’t vote no.”

Andreassen declined to comment further on Costello’s remarks this week; however, asking that his response be taken from a letter to the editor he wrote on the subject that was printed in the Sept. 26 issue of the Saugerties Times.

“There was marginal planning and little budgeting for the ice arena,” wrote Andreassen. “Relying on grants, projected revenues and recreation fees from future development to fund a project is not realistic. When the lack of budgeting for improvements or expenditures is questionable, everyone should be concerned. Costly improvements that put the town in any debt or fiscal stress warrant additional scrutiny, not less. … The approval process was expedited without a hearing, debate, discussion, consultants describing in detail the plans, specifications or contract language and without the town’s accountant explaining, in public, what this project entails or how it would be paid for.”

Andreassen went on to write that he had requested a clerk of the works be assigned to oversee the ice arena project, and noted that building projects that are not approved by town government must go through a rigorous approval process through the planning board. He cited that no studies were made to assess the repair’s potential environmental impact, and that, should he be elected supervisor, “all town construction projects will go through a rigorous planning process and will be transparent.” He also wrote that before his tenure on the town board, he had offered his expertise to a previous town board that included Costello, asking to chair a committee to research the feasibility of a permanent, year-round structure to house the ice arena. He wrote that he never received a response to his offer.

 

There are 14 comments

  1. Jp

    Out with the old, in with the new. Time for a new supervisor. Taxes are out of control. People can’t afford to live here. How many residents actually use the ice rink? How come it never had funds put aside for the roof in the first place? Why only one bidder?

    1. Donna DeGregoria

      You will never have a more honest candidate than Fred Costello and to question a mileage expense is absurd. What about the fact that he cut a family vacation short to attend such meeting because he felt it important to be there, it’s very sad to think this campaign has to turn into a mud slinging event. I think Fred has done a great job and believe he will continue to do so if elected, he’s got my vote!

  2. Brian

    Seems a bit odd that there was only one bidder. That’s definately not standard practice for any municipality. It also seems questionable that the current town super is claiming mileage for returning from his vacation. I’m sure that it’s not uncommon to claim mileage from your residence to your place of work, if that is a standard practice. However, claiming mileage coming back from another state seems like a bit of a stretch unless your duties required you to be out of state.

    1. Nicole Roskos

      It seems a bit odd that Paul Andreassen waited till the final vote to come out against this. He had a year and half to discuss this with the board. If he had questions and concerns he should have brought them up at the board meetings. And why did he abstain, instead of make his case and vote no? Was he afraid of all the ice rink supporters getting upset, afraid losing their support instead of standing his ground? Seems like a set up for his campaign, as opposed to what a mature town board member would have done. Andreassen voted with Costello and the board on most everything else, so he had to oppose him on something to justify running against him.

  3. Just Saying

    I agree Jp, it’s time for a new supervisor. Mr Costello says he didn’t have to be present at the hearing. He was not subpoenaed to appear. If thats the case, then why waste taxpayers money traveling back to Saugerties when he has a deputy supervisor Leanne Thornton, who could have attended representing the town at no cost to taxpayers? Fred Costello, give the $500 back to us or better yet, give the $500 to the animal shelter! You were wrong!
    Just saying…..

    1. Nicole Roskos

      Costello came to court that day because he is committed to the community. He left his vacation to stand with his people against this horrible dumping. This shows how dedicated he is to Saugerties. Andreasson has not been in court re the dumping issue in the past months. Why is he not showing up in court and supporting this community?! Plus Andreasson has only been on the board a meager 2 years, compared to Fred’s decade. He should finish his 4 year commitment as a board member.

  4. Pete Johnson

    Given his past history, no one should trust Costello. The Glasco Mini Park was a boondoggle that hurt town finances for many years. The police merger created a mega department with out of control spending. During his tenure, property taxes exploded. He said Kings Highway was “open for business” but it’s still a ghost town. Saugerties needs change.

  5. Just saying....

    Mr Costello should have had his deputy supervisor attend the hearing representing the towns interest while he was away on vacation. In my opinion, Fred Costello was wrong charging the town $500.

    As far as the commitment to this community regarding the dumping issue, all 5-board members are committed to fighting this issue. This is NOT a one man Fred Costello show. It’s a town board issue. I applaud all 5-board members for their commitment.

    Just saying…

  6. Greg Brownstone

    I’ve known Paul Andreassen for more than thirty years and a more dedicated and responsible man you’re just not going to find. He would also quite literally give you the shirt off his back if he thought you needed it, he actually has for me more than once. He would be and is a huge asset to the town of Saugerties and his word is his bond. You don’t find men like this often and when you do pay attention to what they say and do not let them get away!

  7. Just saying...

    Nicole, isn’t town board member John Schoonmaker doing the same thing you said about Paul Andreassen? Isn’t Mr Schoonmaker running for a higher office with only two years into his four year term? Do you think he should finish his 4-year commitment first also? Just saying….

  8. Just saying

    While the supervisor and his group were sitting through hours of mundane testimony regarding C & D dumping, Paul was out last Saturday with members of the American Legion and VFW cleaning up garbage on our roadways.  

    Paul also attended: hearings in Albany on the NY Health Act; meetings at the County Legislative hearings; and Columbia Greene community college on hearings chaired by congressman Delgado on rural Broadband—and has never put in for or requested any travel stipend or mileage.

    just saying…

  9. Just saying

    one final thought….

    Paul Andreassen organized and got two other bands to play for free along with his band the Paul Luke Band to raise money for the animal shelter at Opus 40. The supervisor not only did not contribute any assistance, but never showed up at show.

    Paul Andreassen and Mike Ivino at 6 AM in the morning to beat the heat in July, put the roof on the animal shelter the transfer station with other volunteers, the supervisor was nowhere to be found

    just saying…

  10. Bobby Swingle

    Well one thing is for certain, you are not going too be able too attack Paul by trying too slander his character. That just will not be possible. I know, because, I have known Paul, and the entire Andreassen Family, for just about our entire lives, ( in fact, I am responsible for Paul Luke’s music career, LOL, just kiddin’ Paul, you know the story, ha, ha, ha…). You just will not find a better man. Now, that being said I have also known Fred and the Costello Family as well. And guess what, also a very good man. Go figure? So, how about we put the personal attacks against each of them too bed, and stay focused on the facts, that will make Saugerties a better place, as I know that is what is in both these men’s heart’s…

    … And, Fred, it might of been a better smarter move, too just ‘eat’ those expenses, rather than let it become partisan campaign fodder, just saying.

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