Dan Hust (left) Contributed (right)| Democrat
Ed Sykes of Callicoon, left, and Steve Lundgren of Hortonville are seeking to win the elected position of Delaware supervisor.
Delaware supervisor slot up for grabs
Sykes seeking opportunities for town’s growth
By Dan Hust
CALLICOON Ed Sykes gives a simple reason for pursuing the supervisorship of the Town of Delaware:
“I love this town, and I want to keep it the way I love it.”
His memory of Delaware and his home town of Callicoon goes back more than 50 years, when his family moved here from Narrowsburg (and originally New York City).
He spent his teenage years in Hankins, graduating from the former Delaware Valley school in 1962 and ultimately becoming the owner of Mike Preis Insurance for 25 years.
He’s since sold that business but retains a variety of real estate holdings in Callicoon and Roscoe, and stays involved in the insurance world through the Callicoon Cooperative Insurance Company and as president and chairman of the Southern Tier Title Agency.
He’s also on the board of the Jeff Bank and the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency (IDA), a Callicoon Kiwanian, retired Callicoon fireman, and a founding member of the Callicoon Business Association.
He’s served on the town board twice briefly to replace Bill Moran, who became supervisor, and now since April, replacing retired Councilman Matt Hofer. Both were appointments.
He also just completed a quarter-century on the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, much of that time as its chairman.
Married in 1966, Sykes has three kids and seven grandkids, and it is their future the 67-year-old wants to impact.
“I want to make sure my grandkids have the same opportunities I had growing up here,” he says.
Sykes aims to accomplish that in part by encouraging more economic opportunities in Delaware, through the IDA and direct outreach to investors.
“We have to find people willing to invest their time and money,” he says.
That may include the gas drilling industry, he acknowledges.
“I am not against safe gas drilling,” Sykes explains, confident that the coming state regulatory structure and individual leases will protect residents.
“Everybody who signs a lease who’s smart should put protections in that lease for them and for the people around them,” he remarks.
Sykes is a firm believer in private property rights.
“I’ve had some long conversations with people about property rights,” he says. “... They’re really worried about their rights being taken away from them.
“You just can’t do that,” he continues. “... It would be no different from telling them they couldn’t lumber or tap for maple syrup or mine sand and gravel.”
That pro-drilling stance, however, has knocked him off the Democratic line on November’s ballot. Even though Sykes is a registered Democrat, he’s running on the Republican line because dozens of town Democrats chose opponent Steve Lundgren at the party’s recent caucus.
“I was impressed by the extent of their organization,” Sykes says, admitting he was caught by surprise.
Many of those Democrats oppose drilling, at least in its present fracking form, but Sykes doesn’t believe drilling will harm the town’s open spaces or agricultural efforts in fact, he predicts it will help preserve those pastures, noting that on a recent trip to Dimock, PA (where drilling is ongoing) he saw only a few wells visible on open land from the highway.
He also talked to around a dozen people from that area and found only praise for the industry’s financial benefits.
That said, Sykes is aware of the concerns and controversies surrounding drilling and acknowledges that “probably we should examine what we can do to protect ourselves.”
That doesn’t, however, include a zoning-linked prohibition like neighboring towns are exploring.
“I just don’t go along with this idea of banning it. I think that’s a foolhardy idea,” he says, worried drilling companies would sue, win and bankrupt the town. “How would you like to stand up to Exxon with their 35 lawyers and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars?”
He also expects landowners interested in drilling would sue, further costing the town.
As a businessman and town board member, Sykes is focused on the economics of the township.
“I think we’re doing a great job with the budget this year,” he says, marvelling at the participation and sacrifices of every town employee to ensure Delaware remains within its taxpayers’ means.
“That’s the kind of stuff that makes it work,” he affirms. “... I want to keep that kind of working-together atmosphere.”
He expects the town’s coming tax increase won’t exceed the state-mandated two percent cap, which he supports.
“The cap forces you to find alternatives, to save money in ways you may not have thought of before ... so from that perspective, I think it’s a good thing.”
There are financial pressures like the bonding of the new emergency generator at the sewer plant in Callicoon, replacing one that burned out during a recent flood.
But Sykes is insistent that tax hikes be kept to a minimum and that struggling property owners, like local farmers, be assisted.
“The center of agriculture [in Sullivan County] is here,” he observes. “Part of what makes this town so unique is that agriculture. So what can we do to help them?”
He’d like to ensure they survive.
“Some of the farms are going to have to diversify,” he acknowledges, “but I really want to preserve that part of town. That’s the way I want to keep it.”
He’s not against development that spreads beyond Delaware’s downtowns, but “whatever comes in should be compatible with the area.”
Compatibility of uses has been an issue he’s tackled often on the Zoning Board sometimes with controversy. In a much-publicized battle, the town has been sued by residents challenging the propriety of a kiln-dried firewood operation next to their home in a rural residential area.
Sykes argues that the Zoning Board’s mission is to ensure the town’s zoning is followed.
“The only problem with that [project] was the scope, but at the time we didn’t know it,” he says, nevertheless defending the town’s approvals of it as proper.
“If we don’t like a particular business there,” he states, “we have to change the rules.”
Delaware is considering a rule change elsewhere: possibly reducing the three assessors to one.
Sykes says he’s not yet decided on that issue, still weighing people’s arguments pro and con.
“I don’t have an agenda other than what’s best for the town,” he says.
He doesn’t think many of the people who chose Lundgren over him at the caucus understand that (though Sykes is complimentary to Lundgren, deeming him “a nice fellow”).
And he doesn’t cater to accusations that he is part of the “establishment.”
“If someone can find fault with somebody for being involved in their community, shame on them,” Sykes states, noting his years of cooking pancakes and burgers at countless community fundraisers, among other efforts.
“I’ve lived here all my adult life and invested all I have here,” he adds. “If that’s the ‘establishment,’ I’m guilty.”
Drilling prospects spur Lundgren to run
By Dan Hust
HORTONVILLE Steve Lundgren minces no words.
“The primary reason I’m running is my concern over the drilling issue,” he acknowledges. “I think it’s pretty obvious that’s the central and critical issue.… I don’t believe the town is fully prepared for drilling’s impacts.”
Lundgren, who’s running for Delaware Town Supervisor, and his fellow Democratic slate of town board candidates are all on the same page regarding drilling: it must be addressed before it gets to Delaware.
There’s no guarantee gas drilling will come, but Lundgren wants to be ready.
He heard about its potential three or four years ago and at first thought it could be a good thing, but subsequent research about fracking’s effects left him with unanswered questions and doubts.
“If it were all as pretty a picture as they [industry] try to paint, then I’d have no problem with it,” Lundgren says.
But he’s worried about potential environmental damage, social problems, traffic congestion and harm to the area’s rural character.
“I feel we’ve not been given enough time to respond to the potential impacts,” he explains.
So he’s intent on exploring the possibility of banning fracking via a zoning prohibition, which is being explored by other Sullivan County townships.
That stands in contrast with his Republican opponent in the race, Ed Sykes.
“He believes the time for onerous regulations is over, and I’m concerned about underregulation and underenforcement,” Lundgren explains.
“We have to be realistic,” he insists. “It’s the equivalent to living in an earthquake zone you have to prepare. You cannot stick your head in the sand, because the economic and political forces behind drilling are so enormous.”
Lundgren is also eager to better flesh out the enforcement and cost aspects of the road use agreement the Multi-Municipal Task Force (of which Delaware is a member) has drafted to deal with heavy truck traffic on town roads.
But he points out he’s not a one-issue candidate.
“Definitely one of the first tasks is to look at all of the costs we have been hit with,” he remarks of the town’s finances. “... We have to look at every possible way to save money.”
He’d also like to seek more revenue, like grants (especially to seek out a new home for the highway department) and, if drilling comes, impact fees on the gas industry.
“I’d like to be able to attract more small- and medium-scale light industry and other businesses that are not resource-intensive,” he adds, eager to gain infrastructure like cell service and broadband Internet that would enable more “clean and green” businesses.
To encourage more interaction with town government, Lundgren would enhance the town’s website and start an e-mailed newsletter, both of which would welcome comments and replies.
He’d also investigate a comment hotline for those more comfortable with the phone, plus videotaping and webcasting board meetings.
“I think it’s so important for the cohesiveness of a community for everyone to participate,” he explains.
Lundgren is part of a slate that shares his views and goals (including being aligned with the new Rural Heritage line, even though a technicality kicked them off that line earlier this year).
But even if he’s the only one of that slate to be elected to the town board, Lundgren is certain he will be able to work with his fellow board members.
“I believe I’m a generally cooperative person,” he remarks, pointing out that his career is dependent on such.
Although “semi-retired,” Lundgren has spent the past 30 years in construction management, including work on the Sullivan West High School in Lake Huntington, preparing budgets, addressing labor issues, and resolving conflicts.
He’s just finished two of the state-required six classes to be certified as a building inspector.
Lundgren grew up in San Francisco (ergo the “earthquake zone” reference) and spent much of his life in proximity to the Pacific Ocean, but after meeting and marrying his wife Pamela a native of the area he moved to Hortonville 13 years ago.
“I never thought I could live this far inland,” he admits. “... But this is a gorgeous area. I love the open spaces, the winding roads, the old barns and farmhouses, the air, the water, the creeks and lakes.”
The sense of community and its closeness are also highly attractive.
“You know your neighbors,” he affirms.
At 69, Lundgren is now a father of two and grandfather of three.
He’s got no past political experience, but he does have an idea about that.
If elected, Lundgren plans to be retiring Supervisor Jim Scheutzow’s “intern” for November and December, before taking the reins in January.
He considers himself “a reluctant candidate” but adds, “If you feel strongly about the way things are going, you absolutely have to step up and do what you feel is right.”
Indeed, he’s convinced that, “as Bob Dylan said, ‘the times are a-changin’.
“I know some people perceive that as a threat,” Lundgren admits. “But I would like to reassure them I don’t think it is.”