By Nathan Mayberg
ROCKLAND October 31, 2006 In the first election for a seat on the Sullivan County Legislature since all nine seats went up for election in 2003, two men who didn’t win that year will vie for representation of District 3. District 3 covers the Town of Rockland, most of Neversink, and a small portion of Liberty.
Democrat Elwin Wood, of Roscoe, was appointed to the seat by the Democratic majority last year, when Republican Greg Goldstein announced he would be leaving the body in favor of becoming the next Town of Neversink Supervisor. Wood took office in January.
His opponent will be Republican Patrick Casey, who has been a Town of Rockland Councilman for the past 3 years and is their Deputy Supervisor.
The election is Tuesday, November 7.
Wood, 47, was born in Livingston Manor. He and his wife Joy have three children. He is the owner of Lambrigger Realty and co-owner of the Roscoe Little Store. He is a member of the Roscoe Fire and Ambulance Departments. He is also the past President of the Kiwanis Club. A graduate of Livingston Manor HS, he also took courses at Sullivan County CC.
Wood has long been a fixture in Democratic circles in his part of the county. He has served as County Coroner for six years and ran unsuccessfully against Goldstein in 2003.
Flooding Top Priority
No issue is more urgent and serious than the constant flooding of his town. And Wood makes it clear that this is his top priority.
He described local business as being “fragile… It is very scary. If we have another flood of the last one’s magnitude, you will see empty businesses…We have to stop flooding. We can’t wait.”
While there are plans and studies being conducted by the town and the county, in conjunction with various agencies, Wood says there is not enough time. While he is no expert, he knows time is not on the town’s side. If they wait until the studies are done, the town could be crippled.
Large Parcel Bill
Neversink was up in arms after the county legislature voted to adopt the state’s large parcel bill in 2005, sending taxes up 74 percent.
The large parcel bill was approved on a 5-4 party-line vote, before Wood became legislator. And this month, Wood did not keep it a secret when he was able to convince the legislature to drop its participation in the state’s program. The result, will be a drop in Neversink’s tax rate.
Casinos? Wood supports one. He voted to approve the contract with the St. Regis Mohawks for their casino at the Monticello Raceway. He cited a lackluster economy as his reason. “The economy is weak in Sullivan County and we need jobs.”
As for whether he would support more, Wood said “we need to walk before we run.” Once the county sees the impacts of one casino, it can better decide whether it wants another.
Casinos, he said, “are not the end all or cure all. But its one way to boost the economy.” He cited the thousands of jobs it will bring, and the multiplier effect they will have through increased tax revenue, home purchases and so forth.
The economic impact of not expanding is worse than the possibility of exporting trash, in his estimation. However, he noted the importance of controlling odors and being accountable to its neighbors in Monticello. He supports the buyout of some of the homeowners who live near the landfill.
On Layoffs and Finances
Wood is hopeful the county won’t have to layoff employees. Early retirements may be able to save some jobs. But Wood said he understands if the county has to lay off some of its staff, although he opposed the idea of layoffs back in 2003. Wood said the county simply can’t afford more taxes. The proposed 3 percent property hike is the limit for him. “The county is saturated with taxes.”
“Sullivan County government needs to be overhauled,” he said. In particular, he singled out the finance department. “We need strong checks and balances.”
On Sales Taxes
In 2003, Wood campaigned partially against the sales tax increase which passed in the county. This time around, he supports one, as does his opponent.
“But we can’t balance our budget on that. We shouldn’t be fighting with our counterparts in Albany. It shouldn’t be a fight or a struggle. We should work together.” This year’s budget does not count on any sales tax increases.
Casey, 58, and his wife Patti have four children. He is a past President of the Livingston Manor Rotary Club and has been a member for 20 years. Like his opponent, he is an avid hunter. Casey has been a member of the Shandalee Hunting Club for the past 20 years.
While Casey has long been involved in Town of Rockland politics, this is his first shot on the county scene. For 15 years, he served on the Town of Rockland Planning Board, before being elected as a town councilman.
He is retired from NYSEG, where he spent 26 years of his life. He was born in Mount Vernon and graduated from Archbishop Stepinac High School in 1966. He served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War between 1968-1970, and saw action there.
He and Wood do not disagree on many issues but Casey does believe there is too much partisan politics at the Government Center.
“I don’t expect to go in there and change the world. But I don’t like the partisan politics that go on in there.” He cited last year’s large parcel bill as an example.
“The Town of Neversink has its hands tied behind its back because of their reservoir. It shouldn’t have been an issue.”
“I think everybody ought to work for the common good of the voters,” he said from his home surrounded by a large tract of farmland in Livingston Manor. He pointed to the Town of Rockland Board, which he sits on, as being devoid of party politics.
Casey is well aware that flooding is the most critical issue to the Town of Rockland.
His town has seen a lot of experts on the issue.
He said that gravel has to be cleaned out of the water bodies and the water level in the ponds and lakes may have to be lowered in the winter.
The town may designate certain areas with little development as flood zones. He is not sure that dredging is the answer. He described it as a stop gap measure which will make it worse for people downstream, he said. And it can be more expensive then the other options.
The town may buy out properties which are notoriously subject to massive flooding with matching grants.
Like Wood, he supports one casino, although he is a reluctant supporter and doesn’t support them in general. “I guess I could stomach one casino at the raceway. I don’t want my kids working in casinos.” Casey remembers his bad experiences working in one of the county’s former hotels when he was younger, and fears the same for his children at a casino.
On The Landfill
Casey described the county landfill “a big issue.” He said it was “a shame that the landfill was used to make money for the county all those years and is now a big concern.”
However, he believed the legislature was on the right track in its plans to recycle and convert its gas to electricity. He was surprised it wasn’t done sooner. After all, he watched NYSEG do it for years..
In conclusion, Casey described himself as the independent candidate. “I am retired by NYSEG. I don’t have another job. I don’t have any agenda. I care about the Town of Rockland and the Town of Neversink and I care about the county. I am my own person.”