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Villages Get Their Day

By Nathan Mayberg and Dan Hust
SULLIVAN COUNTY — This Tuesday, five of the six incorporated villages in Sullivan County will hold elections for trustee and/or mayoral seats.
Polls will be open in Monticello, Liberty, Wurtsboro and Bloomingburg from noon to 9 p.m.
The Village of Jeffersonville, which conducts its own elections, will have the polls open from 9 a.m. to noon.
According to Fran Thalmann, Republican commissioner of the Sullivan County Board of Elections, and Jeffersonville Village Clerk Louise Gorr, the following villages have open seats where the trustees will be unopposed:
• Chris Gozza
• Thomas Sprague
• Ronald Scott
• Joseph Gotthardt
• Peggy Johansen
• William Thony
The remaining village races are contested and are detailed in the accompanying articles (see below for Monticello mayoral candidates -- see our print edition for Wurtsboro and Monticello trustees).
(Monticello trustee candidate Victor Marinello did not return calls requesting an interview.)
The Village of Woodridge will hold its elections on June 15.

Contributed Photo

Jim Barnicle

Barnicle Full of Ideas

By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO — March 12, 2004 – In the first five minutes of an interview, Jim Barnicle, candidate for Mayor of the Village of Monticello, has made one point irrepressibly clear.
Making the streets of Monticello clean is something he takes seriously.
Barnicle is the president of the Monticello Chamber of Commerce and a former vice-president, serving as a board member since its inception. He is a 25-year employee of Anheuser-Busch and is currently a key account manager for them. He and his wife operate the Keeping Room on Broadway in Monticello, an antiques and gift shop.
Born in New Jersey, he received his bachelor’s degree in education from Quincy University in Illinois. He completed his master’s degree in administration and supervision from Kean University in New Jersey and spent nine years as a schoolteacher in New Jersey before settling in Monticello in 1986.
And he’s here to stay.
"The bottom line is I think I can make a difference. I will bring the skills from the business world of Anheuser-Busch and apply them in principle to run the village government,” he says.
Barnicle stresses the need for the town, county and village to work together in order for the village to flourish.
But his "number one objective is cleanliness. . . . If we are to succeed, prosper and flourish, both our visitors and residents must have a Broadway and resident streets free of litter, trash, and graffiti in order to improve the impression of all those who come to Monticello."
And the candidate for mayor has a plan. It has four parts.
Part 1: "I’m going to divide the village into four quadrants. Each trustee will be in charge of a quadrant. On non-meeting weeks, they will ride their quadrant and communicate to the code enforcement officer any problem they see with violations."
The mayor would be in charge of watching Broadway, said Barnicle.
Part 2: "Monday, Wednesday and Friday, for the first hour and a half of each day, the DPW will clean, sweep, and litterpluck Broadway."
Part 3: "We will re-introduce the adopt a street program. . . . We will aggressively seek citizens and businesses alike to adopt all streets in Monticello."
Each individual or group who adopted the street would be responsible for its cleanup.
Part 4: "Expand Cleanliness Day and coordinate with civic groups."
Barnicle would hold two cleanup days in the fall and spring, which would be coordinated with groups like Kiwanis and the Rotary Club. Barnicle believes this coordination would have a bigger impact, as opposed to different groups cleaning up on different days. He also thinks that it would have a domino effect on the community, who would follow the lead of the groups and "take pride in the village."
As for other issues, he does not support the hiring of a village assessor.
"The costs are too high," he says.
Incumbent Mayor Gary Sommers has alleged that Barnicle would have a conflict of interest as mayor by serving on the town assessment board of review. He said he would resign if elected.
"Village taxes are too high," he says.
Barnicle said he would work with county legislators to reduce tipping fees at the landfill. The money saved would be returned to village taxpayers.
Speaking of the landfill, Barnicle said the mayor should not have waited so long to threaten fines against the county for the odor. He called for a moratorium on the expansion of the landfill until the "smell is corrected." He does not support any importation of garbage.
The mayoral candidate said that taxes would be reduced if new businesses came to the village. Barnicle plans on working on the development of the Apollo Plaza. He also wants to bring in light manufacturing companies, as well as component companies. He feels some of these matters could be brought to light by using the "vastly underutilized" Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development."
And Barnicle feels that a better relationship with the town and county could result in more businesses being brought to the village.
The candidate is a supporter of casinos and the racino "because of employment." Barnicle said that he would ask Monticello Raceway to help repave Jefferson Street, especially since they expect to be receiving Empire Zone tax credits. If elected, he said he would see to it that the village is "compensated fairly for the services we will have to provide."
As for affordable housing, Barnicle said that there are plans for apartments on High Street, as well as West Broadway, among others.
And he wants to change the atmosphere and pace of the board meetings. If he becomes mayor, he pledged to "run them in a positive, orderly environment."

Democrat Photo by Nathan Mayberg

Gary Sommers

Sommers Working
On Multiple Fronts

By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO — March 12, 2004 – Village of Monticello Mayor Gary Sommers compares being the mayor of Monticello to being "able to keep several balls in the air at the same time."
He is running for re-election this Tuesday, and in his view, his term in office has met with many successes as well as challenges.
A graduate of Monticello High School, Sommers has lived in Monticello his whole life. He is a graduate of the New York Technical Institute, where he obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communications. He runs J.J Sommers on Broadway, along with his father, who has operated the store for over 50 years.
The mayor is also the president of Stagehands Local 353 of the Interstate Association of Theatrical and Stage Employees. He also owns GPS Racing, a company that races, builds, and maintains race cars all over the country.
Recently, Sommers has met one controversial issue by proposing another one. After a tax assessment by the Town of Thompson sent many property assessments up in value and caused an overall drop in village property values, Mayor Sommers proposed hiring a village assessor once again.
Sommers supports the idea, because he said the village’s budget has been negatively impacted several times by changes in the town’s tax assessment, and the village needs an assessor who would see the village’s point of view better.
The mayor thinks the village could afford it by using the town’s tax rolls, as well as the software left over from the previous assessor. The village assessor would also be part-time.
While stating that he respected Town of Thompson Assessor Tom Frey, Sommers took issue with the devaluing of businesses on Broadway. Sommers said those businesses on Broadway, which are part of the Empire Zone, are attractive properties.
The mayor is proud that village taxes have gone up less than two percent each year, which he claims is less than the annual rise in cost of living expenses. Plus, he said, "our tax base is low."
Mayor Sommers said that he is in talks with the state to repair Jefferson Street, one of the worst roads in the village. He said the village has tax cases pending in court which could result in money being available to repair Jefferson Street.
Sommers also listed some accomplishments in the area of affordable housing. He pointed to the Tannery Village project, recently built for seniors on low to moderate incomes. Several other housing projects for moderate to upper income residents are awaiting planning board approval.
The mayor has notified the county about the village’s ordinance against excessive odors. He has given them 30 days to fix the smell or face violations.
He is a supporter of the casinos and racino. He said one of his most satisfying achievements in office was keeping the Monticello Raceway from going away.
Sommers said he is looking forward to a "Broadway Project" in 2005 which will be a full-scale effort. The pavement of the road will be dug up and replaced, making the road last longer, he said. Curbs and sidewalks will also be replaced.
The mayor has also been involved with the proposal for a new firehouse on Richardson Avenue. So far, the village has secured $1.88 million from the state to construct the firehouse. The town and village will be sharing the remaining costs of the new firehouse, currently estimated at around $3 million. (The firehouse is being forced to relocate due to the widening of Route 42/Pleasant Street.)
The police station roof has been completed, said Sommers. The next step will be to address asbestos concerns and then gut the inside of the station, repair the walls, and complete the roofing of city hall.

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