By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO December 2, 2005 Town of Mamakating Supervisor candidate Carl Bonitz may contest 14 absentee ballots which went to current Supervisor Charles Penna.
According to Bonitz, the ballots were signed by voters who havent lived in the town for many years.
Initially, Bonitz, the Democratic candidate, was declared the winner. According to a recount conducted last week by the Sullivan County Board of Elections, Bonitz lost the election by six votes, and the count was set to be certified yesterday declaring Penna, the Republican incumbent, the winner.
However, Bonitz said members of the Town of Mamakating Democratic Committee are investigating whether there are sufficient grounds to challenge the votes.
According to Sullivan County Board of Elections Commissioner Timothy Hill, state law is vague on the question of residence and voting.
It is a rather involved and complicated mess, he said. Residence is a very difficult issue in New York State.
While voting in two places is clearly illegal, New York State law allows people to register to vote in the location of their permanent home. However, their intent to live there can be difficult to define, prove or disprove, stated Hill.
The Town of Mamakating was the scene of a dispute over just such a question last year, when the validity of Planning Board Chairman John Piazzas residence was debated. Piazza allegedly lived in Middletown but claimed to maintain a residence in the town, where his mother lives.
Initially, Bonitz was declared the winner until 99 votes were discovered to have been left on a machine before the polls were opened. Bonitz said he called Penna yesterday to congratulate him but told him that he would be looking into whether anything else could be done.
After the mistake was discovered last week, Penna appeared to be confident that the election had reached a finality and was already planning ahead for another term.
He said the town will have to draw more businesses to offset rising school taxes and that the town continues to be hurt by a 60 percent equalization rate set by the New York State Equalization Board. Although the town recently passed a budget raising taxes by 2 percent, he wondered, How much longer can we keep this up? Fuel costs are going up by 40 percent.
He said bringing more businesses to the town is the only answer.
Penna said there may be a new appointment to the town planning board in January. Both appointments for the chairmanship of the Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board are up annually.
Penna and ZBA Chairman Jim Barnett have clashed over the last couple of months over Barnetts decision to oust ZBA attorney Ira Cohen and replace him with an outside lawyer for the review of the proposed mushroom plant. Penna said that Barnett has no such authority. Penna would not comment as to whether he will replace Barnett as chairman, saying simply that it was a town board issue.
The supervisor is also looking forward to more youth programs.
We have to do something for the children of this town, he said.
Penna is considering adding a space for skateboarding and bringing in concerts.
Penna is also excited about a new cell tower which was recently completed near the town hall. The new tenant will be paying $1,000 a month to the town. There could be an additional three more tenants, which could bring the town a total of nearly $50,000 a year.
As for the election, Penna said, Carl ran an excellent campaign. He is a very honorable man. We dont differ that much on 95 percent of what is going on in this town. The people I really ran against is the environmentalists.
The environmental groups, he noted, campaigned hard against him, based on decisions he made that they felt were not in keeping with the towns rural, pristine nature.