Dan Hust | Democrat | Contributed
Incumbent Supervisor Ed Sykes is facing a challenge by Steve Lundgren. In the 2011 election, Sykes narrowly defeated Lundgren by 46 votes.
Rematch in Delaware
Story by Dan Hust
CALLICOON November 1, 2013 “The work’s not done.”
That’s how Ed Sykes characterizes his desire to serve another two years as Delaware Town Supervisor.
And it sums up his approach to public service. Though supervisor for just the past two years, Sykes has spent a lifetime involved in public and private ventures.
Now 69, the Callicoon businessman, father, grandfather and Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) Board member doesn’t plan on stopping.
“I really want to get some relief for the people in Kohlertown,” he listed as one of his primary goals, should voters let him serve again.
That suburb of Jeffersonville has seen flooding almost every year for the past decade, he said, and residents have repeatedly aired frustration with the town, county and state.
There’s a plan now in place, and with a state hazard mitigation grant in the offing, Sykes is eager to move forward.
“It should eliminate most of the flooding,” he predicted.
Also in the works is a new Highway Dept. complex along Route 17B east of the current barn in Hortonville.
There, too, Sykes is seeking state monies to build it (though he and the town board came under fire for the price paid to acquire the property earlier this year).
The town is also applying for a state grant to aid the Norfolk-Southern railroad in removing the unused second track at the crossing in downtown Callicoon.
“They asked us to pay for the concrete,” Sykes said of the railroad, which is why Delaware is seeking $80,000.
The railroad is picking up the bulk of the costs, he added, but he’s glad to participate.
“It makes the crossing safer,” Sykes said.
Plus it will lead to the expansion of municipal parking next to the railroad, which often fills up during busy days and evenings.
What about the past two years?
For one, the supervisor points to Delaware’s new sole assessor, a position that came about after a town-organized citizens group recommended the change. Delaware, in fact, was the last town in the county still operating with a three-assessor system.
“I’m proud of getting it done,” he affirmed.
Callicoon’s healthily active downtown has also been a bright spot in Sykes’ tenure.
“Success breeds success,” he affirmed, particularly impressed by the immensely popular Farmers’ Market. “Certainly the retail climate in town is much better than it was five or six years ago.”
Delaware also has eight homes being built a significant number in the smallest town in Sullivan County.
But Sykes admits he can’t lay claim to attracting local business and development, even though that was a campaign promise two years ago.
“It’s a tough sell,” he remarked though he added that as an IDA Board member, he has participated in a range of economic development efforts countywide.
He remains on the outs with what was once his own Democratic Party. Rejected by many of the active party members in town, Sykes switched to being a registered Republican and is running on that line.
“I felt the Democratic Party in town was taken over by forces I didn’t want to be associated with,” he explained.
Those forces have rallied behind his opponent, Steve Lundgren, who’s mounting a second campaign to unseat Sykes.
Like last time, Sykes isn’t interested in offering thoughts about Lundgren, whom he sees (and receives comment from) at virtually every town board meeting.
“He’s a nice fellow” is about all the supervisor will say.
Sykes did, however, call Lundgren and fellow candidates’ platform “single-issue” as in anti-fracking.
Sykes doubts gas drilling will come anytime soon, if ever, to the town, but if it does, he’s not against it if it can be done safely. That’s why he voted for the controversial “Roeder resolution,” which while not explicitly inviting drilling in indicated the town was not about to ban it, like some neighboring townships.
He also signed a form letter sent by upstate officials to Governor Andrew Cuomo in support of moving ahead with the currently-stalled fracking regulations.
“I am for people’s property rights,” Sykes explained.
“The antis make it grow into something it’s not,” he said of the resolution. “Personally, I do think it can be done safely, but it’s not an issue!”
Nevertheless, an independent commission formed by Sykes and the town board continues to study drilling and its impacts, with no current deadline to their work.
“It’s a very difficult task,” Sykes explained especially since he’s still searching for willing, reasonably objective residents to return the four-member commission to its original six-member form.
People have wondered whether the commission might have too large a task to accomplish, but Sykes said he’s confident in their abilities.
“It is daunting,” he confirmed, “but I don’t think that’s a reason not to do it.”
In the meantime, issues of current concern to Sykes include the town budget, which he said will feature a tax increase of about seven more cents per $1,000 of assessed value this coming year.
And like the two budgets he’s overseen before, this one won’t go over the state-mandated two-percent property tax increase cap.
Sykes said that reflects a keen concern about the welfare of his fellow residents.
“I love the Town of Delaware,” he affirmed.
Story by Dan Hust
HORTONVILLE November 1, 2013 This Election Day, Stephan “Steve” Lundgren aims to close and surpass the 46-vote gap that left him the runner-up to Ed Sykes in the 2011 election for Delaware Town Supervisor.
That’s not just because Lundgren has knocked on virtually every door in the township but also, he says, because voters have become familiar with Sykes, who’s just finishing his first two-year term as supervisor.
“I think people now are a little more aware of our differences in attitude and approach,” Lundgren, the Democratic candidate, explained.
And, he charged, they feel ignored by the current administration. That’s a primary motivation for his run, in fact.
“I don’t feel the average person in town is really being consulted or listened to,” he said, “and I want to change that.”
For example, the controversial “Roeder resolution” and a form letter about drilling sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and signed by Sykes were handled without due community diligence or involvement, said Lundgren.
“That’s why my slogan is ‘no secrets, no surprises’,” Lundgren said.
Though drilling appears rather distant from Delaware’s borders, his approach to the controversial fracking issue would be to conduct a townwide poll to gauge the majority and minority’s sentiments.
“It’s not simply my own agenda,” he argued. “I’m personally not for drilling, but what I am for is the town board to find out how everyone in the town feels.”
And if the majority feels differently than he, Lundgren is willing to lead within that framework.
But for those who think Lundgren’s the “one-issue fracking candidate” his opponents have accused him of being, Lundgren has a slew of reasons why he’s not.
For example, he’s interested in investigating sharing a constabulary with neighboring towns, an idea first broached by one of his running mates. While he’s grateful for the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office and New York State Police, he notes that they’re often half-an-hour or more away from Delaware.
“I’ve talked with quite a number of people who’ve been concerned with the response time,” he said, referring to a recent uptick in burglary calls.
He’d encourage older farmers to share not just experience and encouragement but land and equipment with young people interested in niche farming.
He’d direct the code enforcement officer to educate homeowners on installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors provided through grants procured by the town, with the cooperation of local suppliers and electricians.
He’d push for more broadband Internet and cell signal coverage in the town, and, if the town board agreed, he’d put Community Film Depot’s currently volunteer videotaping of meetings on the town’s payroll.
Community participation is paramount to Lundgren.
“I’m… eager to give voice to those people who so far haven’t been adequately represented,” he explained. “Communication is essential… and I think it would encourage more people to get involved.”
To that end, Lundgren contemplates creating citizen advisory panels on a range of current issues:
• Updating the comprehensive plan
• Researching acquiring the Callicoon railroad depot for use as a town hall
• Revamping the website to be clearer and more interactive, offering all public documents upfront rather than requiring Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests first
• Designing the coming town highway complex
That last one, Lundgren said, should have included citizens even before the property was acquired (for which he would have first conducted an appraisal).
That process is already in motion, but Lundgren feels ready to tackle it, citing his 30 years as a construction project manager including on the renovations now nearing completion at the Sullivan County Adult Care Center in Liberty.
“I feel very confident in my ability to do the day-to-day duties of the supervisor,” he confirmed, noting he’s prepared budgets, dealt with complex legal and technical issues, organized people and paperwork, and worked with wide-ranging interests.
He’d bring those skills to bear on the Kohlertown flooding concerns and on the town zoning rules, which were recently amended in the Delaware River corridor. In fact, he wants to rewrite them again.
“We have to take a fresh look at those because the entire process was flawed,” he charged, worried that the result of the current amendments “could be potentially expensive for us.”
At the very least, Lundgren feels the rules could be made less confusing.
Lundgren also has a growing knowledge of building codes, as he’s finished four of the state-required six classes to be certified as a building inspector.
Amidst all this, the 71-year-old also has time to be a husband (to Pamela, a descendant of the Poley and Whitmore families), father (of Sullivan West grad David), grandfather and great-grandfather.
“I really love living here,” he affirmed. “I’ve found a true home and a real community… that I’ve never felt anywhere else.”