Incumbent Town supervisor Dan Connell shakes hands with first-time candidate Jim Carroll at the Meet the Candidates Night at the Westport Town Hall, Oct. 17.
Incumbent Dan Connell will seek re-election against Jim Carroll when residents go to the polls Nov. 5.
Voters in Westport can vote at the United Church of Christ in Wadhams for District one from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Election Day; and at the Town Hall, 22 Champlain Avenue in the hamlet for Westport for voters in District two.
Connell: Between being on the town board as a councilman and supervisor, that’s 14 years that I’ve served on the Westport town board. During that time I’ve brought in over $20 million in grants and low interest loans. The contacts that I’ve made during that time and especially in the grant process are invaluable. We’ve done a lot in the town of Westport, and in the town there’s more work to do. Over the next two years, working in concert with the town board and all of our committees, I’d like to continue to try to improve the town like we have over the last 14 years.
Carroll: I think by empowering the staff at the town to do their jobs to their best potential. I think I’m good at that. I’m good at setting up, good recording, and working with the crew at Westport to come up with goals and objectives that they can shine with. The bigger picture is there is working with counties, with all the other supervisors and also with the town council which ultimately, they’re the ones that make the decisions. My job is to find alternatives, ideas and to work with them to put the ideas that they have to bring the town forward.
A big issue in Westport is the need for a new garage for the town DPW and volunteer fire department. If elected, what will you do to see this come about?
Carroll: I was involved with one of the early rounds of this as a member of the school board but what I’m looking at now is that I need to be brought back up to speed as to where the current projects stand so that I can make the best decisions possible and work with the town to make that happen. The issues are not only the structures themselves, the need for them to be upgraded, but also whether or not they need to be replaced and how, that means going over all the options.
Connell: Well actually there’s another need, we also need a total remodel of the town hall. I have been working since I’ve been supervisor in this problem. We had designed one building to serve the needs of all three and the voters voted that down, basically, as I understand it, because they wanted the town hall to remain where it was. We now have a committee working on the fire station and highway garage. In fact next week we have the first meeting with the architect. We also have a separate committee working on the town hall, and their report is due out in a couple of weeks. Obviously these are expensive projects, but they have to move forward. There are major problems with all three of these buildings, and one of the major questions the public has is the dollar amount. Well you don’t know the dollar amount until you have a design and you start seeking grants and start seeking out. You know what the overall price is going to be, but you don’t know what the cost to the tax payer is going to be until you go through the grant process so that’s what we’re doing now and we’re doing it with these committees that are comprised of town councilmen, fire district commissioners and the public.
How will you work to keep quality town services within the restrictions of the states tax cap?
Connell: Since the tax cap has come into existence we have come in under the tax cap. We completed our preliminary budget and that’s coming in under the cap. You’re continually looking for ways to save money. Obviously the biggest part of your budget is in personnel services and we’re continuing to look at every position we have at the town and restructure those. We look at all the services we have in the town and see if there’s any way we can do them more efficiently, thus saving money.
Carroll: That’s a huge challenge. The tax cap is a crippling piece of legislation for many municipalities in many school districts. There are a number of school districts across the state that in the next two to four years will be insolvent and have to fold or hand over the keys to the state. It means looking at every possible opportunity for savings and also means that the tax cap needs to be realistic. If it comes through like this year, we’re able to keep it from 1.66 percent, which the state determines is the magic number. The community can look at what would happen with a similarly restrictive cap in the future, and decide that that’s not possible and vote to exceeded it if that’s what’s needed. A well-run government doesn’t have a lot of options, and I think that Westport is extremely well-run, which means that as the costs of things in the town increase, if the cap doesn’t grow with that, things are either going to have to be cut or will have to go outside of that budget amount. Grant money can offset that and that’s a huge part and many supervisors are out looking for places for funding to offset the challenges of running.
What one thing do you want to tell voters who may be undecided heading into the polls?
Carroll: When I was first thinking about running, a friend of mine asked me as an exercise to distill everything down to one central idea, why did I want to run. I looked at my life for the last 40 years of being around Westport and I realize that ever since I first came here I’ve always chose Westport. This is a wonderful town. I could go anywhere, and every time I even think about it I look back at what is here and I consistently choose Westport. I see the potential for this town to be even better than it is. It was a great place for us to raise our children. I want to keep it that way for others. I want to keep the town alive and viable, and I really can’t imagine living anywhere else. I’ve always worked in the services industry of some sort, and town supervisor is a service position. It is all about working for the town, and the town’s people. It’s no different than what I’ve been doing for the last 30 years at the Marina, and in the other businesses that I’ve been involved in. I care about the town, I choose Westport, and with their votes help we can all choose Westport.
Connell: I would wish that they would look at my record over the last 14 years, the way that every single project that we have completed has been done with an advisory committee consisting of citizens of the town. I would make the statement that if you look at citizen involvement on a per capita basis we have as much or more than any other town in new York state, and we’ve been able to move these projects forward because they haven’t been my projects or the town board projects but they’ve been the community’s projects. The community has been involved since day one helping decide if we move forward on them, how we move forward on them, and how much money we spend on them.