By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO August 13, 2002 "The county plan for Monticello is to make it the armpit of the county."
That statement was made by Village of Monticello Trustee Mary Jo Oppenheim at the village board meeting on Monday, July 15. And it angered the two Sullivan County legislators representing the village, Bob Kunis (D-8) and Jim Carnell Jr. (R-9).
"I am concerned by her continued lambasting of the Legislature," Kunis remarked. "[Her comment] is the furthest thing from the truth. If she has concerns, she should come here and talk to us.
"Mary Jo has the easiest access to us," Kunis continued. "She works in this building [the county government center]. It is simple to request a meeting with any of us."
"Before coming out publicly to oust the Legislature, she should have the courtesy to speak to us whether as a resident or a trustee," Carnell commented. "She has made no effort other than at a public forum criticizing us."
Carnell was also angered by comments Oppenheim made at the Special Protection of the Environment for the County of Sullivan (SPECS) meeting on Wednesday, August 7.
Oppenheim stated, "The leadership of the county needs to have a clear idea where we want to go. Monticello is becoming the armpit of the county. What is next? All nine legislators are up for election next year. Remember this next November."
Both Kunis and Carnell cited various improvements in the village over the last few years, like the Main Street redevelopment projects and the facade upgrades. Also mentioned were the many beautification efforts that have improved the aesthetic look of the village.
"If the village has concerns, then she should go the extra mile and meet with us. It works both ways, and my door is always open," Kunis said. "The previous village manager [Cheryl Shiber] used to meet with [former District 9 Legislator] Steve [Kurlander] on a weekly basis. When she [Shiber] was released, those meetings stopped.
"I ran into the village mayor at a local eatery recently," Kunis continued. "He told me that he wants to re-open the lines of communication and re-establish them. I am all for that. I am here for the village."
Oppenheim was informed of the legislators comments and offered a response.
"I will not talk to them about village matters on county time. I am a county employee," Oppenheim replied. "[Kunis] has gotten the message. I would be happy to meet with him and find out if my perception is wrong. I don't think any beautification project will make up for the harm caused by the [Calpine] power plant. The legislators should have considered that before looking at this project."
Those comments further angered Kunis.
"That is ridiculous," Kunis responded. "I personally am aware that she has studied the Calpine issue on county time and given interviews to the press on county time."
While both sides seem willing to meet, no arrangements have been made. Carnell stated that he will be regularly attending village board meetings.