Democrat Photo by Nathan Mayberg
By Nathan Mayberg
WHITE LAKE Town of Bethel Supervisor Victoria Vassmer-Simpson will face her first election challenge as Supervisor in less than two weeks from former councilman Bob Bonnaci.
Simpson was appointed by the board in April to replace former Supervisor Ira Liff, who resigned after pleading guilty to felony fraud. She previously served as a town councilwoman for more than six years.
Simpson has faced stiff pressure from the Smallwood Civic Association to rescind the boards vote in March which asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to eliminate its requirement for a public access to the Toronto Reservoir off Town Road 62.
Simpson stands by that vote and has voted against measures by councilmen Richard Crumley and Harold Russell to rescind the resolution.
The supervisor believes that Woodstone Development, which has sought to privatize the beach, has a better plan.
Woodstone Development has offered to build a park off Moscoe Road, a fishing area, and three boat launch sites. The developers would do so once privatization of the beach is granted.
However, Simpson said she doesnt believe that privatization of the eastern access will affect development at Chapin Estates, where over ten million dollars of construction and development has already begun.
Simpson defended the proposed .8 percent tax increase in the 2005 tentative budget. She said that the tax base in the town has increased by over $20 million, but health and liability insurance rates for town employees have climbed ten percent.
She called today a good time for Bethel. New homes, new businesses and new families are all great for the town, she said.
The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts could have the largest impact of any of the current projects in the town. Simpson has been supportive of the venture and said she wants to continue to work with Alan Gerry and his foundation.
Simpson pointed to a number of new businesses on their way into the town, or now opening in the town. They include the Fat Lady Café, the Smallwood Country Store and the purchase of her familys Vassmers General Store in Kauneonga Lake, which has several development possibilities.
In addition, the supervisor said the town has applied for a $200,000 Main Street Revitalization grant from the state, which can go towards facade and interior renovation, streetscape and new lighting.
Simpson believes the towns recent hiring of a number of part-time employees was also necessary, due to the growth being experienced throughout the town.
She also said that a dose of caution is required regarding development.
You have to control the growth what she called good and smart growth.
She pledged to always work to retain the beauty of the town.
To that end, Simpson believes the towns new comprehensive plan will help protect open space by zoning certain areas of the town for different uses.
Commercial use would be relegated primarily to Route 17B. However, Simpson said there are no current plans to widen 17B.
The supervisor said she is working closely with high-end developers, such as Woodstone Development and their Chapin Estates project, but she added that affordable housing is also an issue of concern for the town.
Simpson is also supportive of a new countywide fire training center which would be located near Kauneonga Lake. The center has been estimated to cost the county $2 million.
On casinos, Simpson doesnt believe gambling is the answer to the countys woes.
She supported a moratorium on gambling in Bethel.
As for the landfill, she supports the expansion into Cell 6. She further backs the countys raising of its rates and its canceling of several importation contracts.
Simpson said she keeps a close relationship with her cousin, Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Chris Cunningham.
She was non-committal about her position on the larger phase two expansion, which would multiply the size of the waste center. She noted that the Legislature is awaiting a report from its consultant on alternatives to the landfill.
This is a unique area, concluded Simpson.
She said her job is a balancing act between growth and dealing with a community that includes everybody, from weekend vacationers to farmers and tourists.
Growing up in a grocery store, she said she learned a lot about the different groups of people in the town.
I got a feel for the community, she explained. I want to continue as supervisor. I really enjoy it.
Democrat Photo by Nathan Mayberg
To Take the Reins
By Nathan Mayberg
WHITE LAKE October 22, 2004 Bob Bonnaci, former Town of Bethel councilman, is challenging Supervisor Victoria Vassmer-Simpson for her seat.
And, as expected, he has taken positions completely opposite of the incumbent.
The election is less than two weeks away, and no issue remains more controversial and polarizing than that of public access to the Toronto Reservoir.
The Smallwood Civic Association, armed with over 1,600 signatures, has been fighting the efforts of Woodstone Development, Simpson, and town board members Bob Blais and Daniel Sturm to restrict access to the reservoir off Town Road 62 in favor of a new stream access nearby and an expanded public access off Moscoe Road.
Bonnaci said the board should have never requested the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to block one of the access points to the reservoir.
I think that the board should have stayed neutral, he said.
Town board members Richard Crumley and Howard Russell have since attempted to rescind that resolution, only to be voted down by Blais, Simpson and Sturm.
If he were supervisor, Bonnaci said he would vote to rescind the resolution if the reason was for the town board to stay neutral.
The retiree said he takes pride in telling the truth and maintaining his integrity. He further believes that he, as supervisor, would be able to function well with the towns employees.
Bonnaci, a Republican, served approximately eight years on the town board. He resigned in order to run for the office of supervisor.
A retired employee of Lucent Technologies, Bonnaci said he believes I can help the town. With such high growth throughout the town in construction, he said the town requires good, strong leadership to make the right decisions.
He said he was hopeful that he could help bring together local citizens who hail from different walks of life.
There is more the town can do to cut waste in spending, argued the candidate. Among them, he said, is lessening its expenditures on attorney fees and searching for cheaper prices on its purchases.
Bonnaci said he supports the three percent raise for all town employees proposed in the tentative new budget. The workers deserve it, he stated.
He also expressed his advocacy for the recent hiring of a number of part-time workers in the town. He said they were necessary in a town that is continually growing. Several of the towns departments have been stretched too thin, he said.
On two countywide issues impacting the town, the Republican takes a firm stand. He said he cant imagine even living close to that dump [the county landfill].
He said the citizens near the landfill face odor and health hazards, including the loss of their property values.
Bonnaci supports exporting waste and expressed concern for the cost the landfill has incurred on county residents.
As for gaming, he supported the resolution passed by the town, which outlawed casinos in Bethel.
However, he supports casinos in the Town of Thompson. He believes the casinos will have a positive economic impact on Bethel. Bonnaci, though, said he didnt support Native American-run casinos.
As for open space preservation, he said he supports it: We cant be overrun by development.
One way to curb such action would be to retool the towns zoning laws, he said.
He supports restricting new construction to a minimum of two to four acres. Currently a home can be built on 40,000 square feet, or less than an acre.
There is wildlife around here, he added.
I am really looking forward to working with the town board, he concluded.