By Nathan Mayberg
SULLIVAN COUNTY March 17, 2006 Voters will have some choices to make in some village elections, but no options in other races when the polls open this Tuesday, March 21, in five of the countys six villages.
In the Village of Liberty, two Democrats will not be appearing on the Democratic line due to a mistake by the villages Democratic Party Leader Thelma McGiver to notify the Sullivan County Board of Elections when they would be holding a caucus.
The party has endorsed current Village of Liberty Trustee Anita Parkhurst and a new candidate Douglas Bowman for the two open trustee seats. Parkhurst was nominated by her husband Dan at the Republican Caucus and endorsed by the villages Republican Party. Therefore, she will appear on the Republican line with current Village of Liberty Trustee Thomas Sprague at the polls on Tuesday. Bowman will be appearing on the Liberty First line.
In the Village of Bloomingburg, incumbent Mayor Ronald Scott will be running on the Progressive Party line against Conservative and A New Beginning candidate E. Everett Saunders for another two-year term. Trustee Joseph Gotthardt will face a challenge on the Progressive Party line by A New Beginning candidate Margaret Peggy Wood. Progressive Judge Glenn Kroll will run opposed.
All other elections will be unopposed. The Village of Monticello will have two trustees up for re-election on their four year terms. Trustee Scott Schoonmaker will be appearing on the Conservative, Democrat and Republican lines. Trustee Gordon Jenkins will be appearing on the Democrat and Republican line. Judge Josephine Finn will up for re-election on the Conservative and Democratic line.
Village of Wurtsboro Trustee Michalena Mickey Maher will be running against no competition for a two-year term on the Wurtsboro First ticket.
The Village of Jeffersonville will be holding their own elections. Polls will be opened from noon-9 p.m. at the village hall on 17 Center Street. Trustee Jonathan Casterline will be running on the independent line for a one-year term. Trustees Peggy Johansen and William Thony will be up for re-election on their two-year terms. They both filed independent petitions.
The following is an in-depth look at the folks whose names will show up on the ballots in the contested races next week around the county.
Village of Bloomingburg
In one of the quietest elections you will ever find, Bloomingburg Hardware owner E. Everett Saunders will face off against Mayor Ronald Scott, an incumbent for 20 years.
E. Everett Saunders
Its time for a change, said Saunders. If we dont get some change soon we might as well close the door.
It was one of the few political statements he was willing to make. He said he wants to keep things quiet, and avoid making waves.
He would not respond to Scotts plans to build water lines in the village once the reconstruction of the main street in Bloomingburg begins in 2008, along with new sidewalks.
He believes the development around the village will benefit local business a lot. He said there will be more big changes if he is to become mayor, but refused to identify them.
Taxes in the village jumped 22 percent last year, he said. The mayor blamed the increase on Thompson Sanitation, the company which hauls Bloomingburg garbage to the Sullivan County Landfill. The county raised its rates for accepting waste in 2004.
Saunders acknowledged that taxes had never jumped that way before. He said he wasnt sure if garbage was the reason for the increase. Scott has said that garbage is one of the largest portions of the villages budget.
Taxes are expected to go up again in the village this year, he said. According to Saunders, Scott told him that taxes would go up but did not elaborate. He said the mayor does not share information with him.
If elected mayor, Saunders pledged to ensure the road work is done properly, hold the line on taxes, attract small businesses, and explore the safety of local wells.
With a population of approximately 450 people and with a radius of no more than a mile and a half each way, the village has changed quite a bit since the time when it was the bustling gateway into the Catskills when the state highway ran right through it.
When Saunders moved to the village from Maine in 1979, it was quite the opposite. Route 17 had bypassed the village, and there was little business left in downtown Bloomingburg. When he opened up his hardware store in 1982 with wife Regina Saunders, they were one of the only businesses in the village.
Saunders moved to Bloomingburg to be with his brother who used to live there. In Maine, he had been a foreman for a construction company which built a large paper mill.
When he arrived in the village, he set up J & F Mobile Home Service. The company built roofs for mobile homes, and did other work. Eventually, he built his own mobile homes Amblite Mobile Home Park in the village.
He opened up the hardware store because he had trouble finding the parts to make repairs on local mobile homes. He saw the need for a store which offered a wide range of hardware to the community.
Saunders and his wife have two children. He has three children from a previous marriage. He has five grandchildren.
After 20 years as mayor of the Village of Bloomingburg, Ronald Scott is in the middle of a quiet, yet uncertain campaign on the Progressive Party ticket against Conservative and A New Beginning Candidate E. Everett Saunders.
Everything is growing in the village and around the village
everything has taken off.
Home construction is occurring at a rapid pace outside the village limits in the Town of Mamakating, for the most part. People are looking for more services, he said. The village can offer sewer service to many of the new residents. He said many are coming from the New York City metropolitan area.
In 2008, the New York State Department of Transportation is expected to undertake a major reconstruction project of Main Street in the village.
Scott wants to install water lines underneath the road. He estimated that it will cost about $2 million. He said the state can fund much of the work, and provide low interest loans for the rest. A hydrologist has already identified some areas where water could be pumped. Further studies would be needed.
Among the achievements he is most proud of as mayor is the installation of a sewer system eight years ago. The project totaled $2.5 million, but most of it was covered by state and federal funds. The village bonded $350,000 for the work, he said. It has worked out well so far. The village has gained revenue from outside users. The average bill of $235 is relatively low, he said.
Garbage service takes up about 40 percent of the villages $100,000 budget. So when the villages contract with Thompson Sanitation skyrocketed last year, village taxes climbed over 20 percent.
Scott is semi-retired. He has worked for National Cash Register for the past 35 years. He retired in 2000, but has since come back part time as a contractor. For most of that time, he was a service technician. He and his wife Patricia have been married for 42 years. They have one granddaughter and two grandchildren.
He was born in Thompson Ridge, just outside the village in Orange County. He moved to Bloomingburg in 1955. Even though thousands of cars dont go though the village anymore on the weekends, he said things havent changed much. The same houses still stand, but with different people. It has its ups and downs, he said. The village annexed a 24-unit senior housing development five years ago.
Like his opponent, Scott expressed concern on the impact of local aquifers and wells due to the new development.
As for the village itself, there is little room for new housing development. There is little vacant land to build on.
In what is certainly one of the most non-descript elections in the county, Scott has plenty of praise for Saunders. Hes been very good [on the campaign]. He is a good man. He would make a good mayor. People have a win-win situation whichever way we go. Maybe Im set in my ways. Maybe there is room for a change, he said.
Village of Liberty
Four months ago, after Village of Liberty Trustee Chris Gozza moved over to the Town of Neversink, Anita Parkhurst was named to replace him. Now she will be vying for a four-year term on the board.
Parkhurst had no prior political experience at any level before her appoitment. She moved to the village in 1993 and in 1997 began working in the planning department of what is now the Catskill Regional Medical Center. Two years ago, she was promoted to coordinate the hospitals new Planetree program which focuses on healing not just the body, but the mind and spirit. In 2004, she was named an assistant to the hospitals Board of Trustees.
Since being on the board, Parkhurst said she has been busy preparing the budget for next year. So far, the board has reviewed two departments.
Helping to run one of the highest-taxed municipalities in the county has not been easy though. Its a lot of hard work and responsibility, she said.
The future is pretty bright. Eventually, gambling will come to Sullivan County. The village needs to be prepared for an increase in population and business. Were next door to the casinos, she said.
Parkhurst said she is not morally or ethically opposed to casinos or gambling but isnt sure whether the village needs one.
Among her priorities for the village, is to see it cleaned up, particularly on Main Street. I think there is a lot of work to be done, she said.
She doesnt think it is feasible for the village and town to merge together.
That needs to be investigated, she said. They have talked about consolidating services, and have combined some departments such as the assessors office.
But Parkhurst thinks the police department should stay committed to the village. She said she isnt sure if taxpayers will save money from combining more departments.
Parkhurst is a native of Storres, a small town in Connecticut home to the University of Connecticut.
She graduated from Edwin OSmith High School and entered the United States Navy. While in the Navy, she traveled to the Bahamas, San Diego, Calif. and New Foundland as a land surveyor. Parkhurst met her husband, who is still a reservist with the Navy.
After eight years in the Navy, they returned to his hometown in Suffolk County, Long Island. But they were unable to deal with the heavy traffic burden necessary to commute to work.
So they moved to Harriman for a year and then to Liberty in order to find a more affordable and rural experience.
Her husband recently returened from a nine-month stint in Kuwait. He was working as a chief builder of barracks and equipment in support of the troops stationed in Iraq.
When he was sent back oversees in support of the war, Parkhurst said became terrified. But she received a lot of support from the community. She said it was part of the reason she became involved in politics, although she still doesnt know why she was chosen.
Since being on board, Parkhurst has been struggling with the choice of raising taxes to maintain the villages infrastructure or to let the infrastructure slide a little in order to relieve the burden of the taxpayers. She called it a balancing act.
When we first moved here, the real estate agent intentionally kept us off Main Street until I closed on my house, she said. The first time she went down Main Street to drop her children off at school, she was shocked by what she saw. The stores were closed and there were no pedestrians. It was dirty, dismal and gray, she said.
Thirteen years later, many of the stores are now open, there is parking off Main Street, and people are walking the streets.
Things are improving. I would love to be a part of that movement, she said.
Since being elected to the Village of Liberty Board in 1993, Republican Thomas Sprague has prided himself on the work he has done to clean up the villages water system since the village well on Elm Street was discovered to be contaminated by MTBE.
He has been defeated at the polls twice,but has come back with vigor each time to serve village residents.
He considers his 30 years of experience in dealing with municipalities throughout the state on infrastructure issues, as a major benefit in dealing with the water matter.
He has been working for Schmidts Wholesale in Monticello since 1976 as a sales representative. He regularly travels to municipalities up to Saugerties and Westchester, as well as out to Pennsylvania and Connecticut. He mostly sells underground piping which has given him some insight into the water industry.
In addition, he has contacts with many water departments throughout his business radius. Some of them had problems with Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether and assisted him in sharing how they treated the problem.
The village, with then Mayor Ron Gozza, did a lot of studying and closed the well. The village took a vote, and it was agreed to build a new water treatment plant on Lily Pond. A pump station was built to keep the water clean and was partially funded by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. However, in the summer months the plant does not provide enough water ,and the village uses the old well at a low rate. He said that tests on the old well for traces of MTBE, have come up clean.
Some of the gas companies that are near the well have been forced to remediate their sites and clean up leakage from old gas tanks, by removing them from underneath the ground.
The village is in the process of constructing a new transmission line from Lily Pond which will provide enough water so they no longer have to use the old well. The total cost of the new line, monitoring of the water quality, a stand by generator, as well a new storage tank will cost approximately $3.8 million, said Sprague.
Currently, the village will sell water to the town in the summer, because the town runs out of water.
In the late 1990s, the village considered combining the water department but it didnt move forward. Sprague said the village did not do so because it depended on selling water to outside users, through annexation for revenue. Most of the home construction is done outside the village, so the village must annex those homeowners for growth. The village also offers sewer service at great distances, whereas the towns sewer district isnt large enough to reach many users.
That leads to the question of why the village and town dont combine everything? Sprague said there has been some merging, such as the joint fire district and the assessors office. The village eliminated its parks and recreation department, and shares a computer system with the town.
I think there should be a study to see if it is feasible to combine the village and the town, said Sprague. It should be up to the voters. A lot of people would like the village to dissolve. They think taxes will go down but there are too many variables. You need a professional study.
He said such a merger would streamline government and cut costs, but insisted a study be done.
He said Main Street can still look nicer. The village needs more businesses to open up so it can survive. Its going to take a lot of hard work, he said. The median income is not enough to support the kind of businesses people would like to see on Main Street, he added.
Sprague expects the new agricultural park being planned in the village to be a major benefit in terms of new jobs and revenue.
There is still a need more new housing, particularly for working class families and seniors, he said. And existing housing could also use some sprucing up. He said the villages code enforcement department has been after neglectful landlords.
Sprague is a graduate of Walton High School in Delaware County. He is the president of Liberty Hose and Truck Company #2 and the second vice president of the Sullivan County Firefighters Association. He and his wife Kathy have two grown daughters daughter Christina resides in Liberty, while Jodi lives in East Greenbush.
The newcomer in the race for two open trustee seats on the Village of Liberty Board is Douglas Bowman.
Endorsed by the Democratic Party but running on the Liberty First line due to an error by the village party, he has been an active member of the community since moving from Philadelphia in 1991.
He is a chief shop steward for Teamsters Local 445, which represent nearly all of the public employees of the Sullivan County Government, except for the Sheriffs Department, Department of Public Works and registered nurses. He has been involved in the negotiations on three contracts with the county and handled 135 charges against county employees. He considers each of them successful, since the worker did not lose their job.
Bowman is currently a junior supervisor in the dietary department of the Sullivan County Adult Care Center. He started out as a chef there in 1991. He and his wife Brenda have two children and seven grandchildren.
He is one of the founders of the Black and Latino Democratic Committee of Sullivan County and is its sergeant at arms.
Bowman was ordained a deacon at the Friendship Baptist Church in Ferndale in 2001 by the Reverend Willie Smith after studying under him for three years. He has continued his studies at the Newburgh Bible Institutes Ellenville campus at Chris Church. He also works with troubled youth in the Youth Advocate Program in Liberty.
Bowmans message on this campaign is for fair wages in the village. He wants to attract businesses to the area, particularly manufacturing jobs, which will keep young people from moving away. There are families barely making it with minimum wages and social services, he said.
Bowman wants to revitalize certain residential areas in the village. He said much of the housing is overpriced by inefficient landlords. He said there should be more education on how people can purchase homes, aside from what Cornell Cooperative Extension. The village needs more affordable housing as well. Not low income housing, but housing that the average worker can afford, he said.
In Philadelphia for example, there was a program in which the village purchased abandoned homes, gutted them and resold them to people willing to improve the properties. The new owners would have the responsibility of refurbishing the homes.
The village should create a small business association which markets its small businesses better he said.
In addition, he would like to see Sullivan County BOCES set up an adult education center in Liberty on top of the one it opened in Monticello. He said many Liberty residents dont have the transportation means or time to head to Monticello for the classes.
The village lacks minority employment, Bowman said. He said he has only seen one minority working for the village since he arrived here 15 years ago.
There is an economic problem in this village. There are those who are employed above standard and those who are employed below standard, stated Bowman. He would push for a standard living wage in the municipality. He would require employers to provide a fair living wage but is not sure how much yet.
As for whether the village and town should merge in order to save taxpayers money, Bowman said the two already have started consolidating some services but did not say whether he thinks they should combine all services. [Village of Liberty Mayor] Ruby Smith and [Town of Liberty Supervisor] Frank DeMayo are doing an excellent job. They have high standards for Liberty. They support and believe in the same things as me, he said.
I think that we can bring forward a lot of positive change in Liberty.