During a Meet the Candidates Night event Wednesday Oct. 30, Maynard Baker (right) offers a presentation on his candidacy for the Warrensburg Town Supervisor post while present town board members listen (from left): Councilman Bryan Rounds, Deputy Supervisor John Alexander, and present Warrensburg Town Supervisor Kevin Geraghty. Topics discussed including the feasibility of a hydropower plant on the Schroon River, the cost of keeping the town landfill open seven days per week, and town expenditures.
During a Meet the Candidates Night held Wednesday Oct. 30, two political foes squared off in a debate in Warrensburg, answering questions about local taxes, municipal expenditures and the concept of establishing a second hydropower plant in Warrensburg.
Town Supervisor Kevin Geraghty, seeking a third four-year term, is challenged in the November general election by former town Supervisor Maynard Baker, who served in the office for 10 years until well over a decade ago. The debate, conducted by the League of Women Voters, was held at Warrensburg High School, and about 35 people attended — a figure that the candidates said was disappointing.
Local hydropower plant feasibility challenged
Baker said he would be seeking to establish, if elected, a new hydropower plant on the Schroon River.
“I am asking for voter support to harness the Schroon River for much-needed electric power,” he said. “This would bring in a significant amount of revenue for the town.”
Geraghty responded that such a project would take a decade or more of environmental review, and if approved or not, would be a heavy financial burden on taxpayers.
When asked about specifically where a new power plant could be developed on the river and how it would be financed, Baker responded that he couldn’t say.
“I don’t know where a dam could be built, but it wouldn’t necessarily have to be a dam, it could be a tube,” he said. “I have no idea, I’ve first got to get elected, then I’ll get a committee together.”
Geraghty responded that four years ago, he and the town board had commissioned a consulting engineer look into the concept, and there was no grant funding available to develop a new hydropower plant.
“I don’t believe it’s a feasible project,” he said, citing that he and the board were already involved in a project of installing solar power panels at municipal facilities throughout Warrensburg — to cut utility costs for the long-term, without spending taxpayer money to do so.
Keeping landfill open an extra day — raise taxes for convenience?
Baker also pledged, as one of his top three campaign issues, to keep the landfill open seven days a week versus the present six days. When asked how he’d do it without burdening taxpayers by boosting municipal personnel expenses, he said that when he elected in the 1980s, he added landfill staffing, and he’d so again.
“Somehow they found a way to do it — they juggled personnel around,” Baker said.
Geraghty responded that the shortening of landfill hours since Baker’s tenure was an action of curbing government spending.
“The town board made the decision to shut down one day to save the taxpayers money,” he said. “To keep the landfill open seven days, we’d have to hire another person.”
Government spending issues disputed
Baker accused Geraghty of excess government expenditures, saying that general fund appropriations had increased during Geraghty’s tenure.
“From 2006 to 2012, the tax levy increased by $611,804,” Baker said, citing a 42 percent increases in the highway fund and similar increases in the sewer and lighting categories.
Geraghty responded that the increase in the sewer and highway appropriations were due to prior administrations’ improper budgeting — overspending the designated funds, then transferring money from the general fund to cover the excess. He said that under his administration, the proper allocations were now being budgeted — so those increases Baker cited didn’t reflected poor prior budgeting of prior administrations, and not the real level of increases.
He added that he and the town board over the last seven year or so had successfully cut expenditures and municipal staffing to save taxpayer money, in the face of unavoidable costs like state-mandated employee retirement payments which had spiraled 82 percent and health care costs — which town employees were now contributing toward.
Geraghty continued that despite such fiscal pressures, he and the board had actually reduced the tax rate from 2006 to 2012 from $3.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, to $3.44 per $1,000.
Baker, when asked how he would now cut expenses in the highway department, said he didn’t know how he’d do it because he hadn’t seen the employee roster nor the data on current expenditures.
“I don’t know how to answer that question,” Baker said.
Candidates review their qualifications
In citing his qualifications to serve, Geraghty cited his years of service as Warren County Budget Officer — curbing taxes and downsizing government during the national economic crisis, and being chosen unanimously as the county’s Chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
He noted that during the initial year of the economic crisis, he and other board members had cut a projected deficit by $20 million.
“I’ve helped move Warren County in the fight direction, and for me to be in the position I am with the county, it makes a difference for the citizens of Warrensburg,” he said.
Baker said that when he served on the county board years ago, he had the respect of his fellow board members.
“I wasn’t a ‘Yes man,’” he said.
Baker cited his service in the U.S. Navy and graduating from the American Academy of Funeral Directors. He said he’d successfully brought $7 million in grant funding to the town during his tenure.
Geraghty also noted how he’d secured grant funding, and how his 30-plus years of experience in management at International Paper had given him budgeting, negotiation and management skills.
“I brought the same work ethic from my tenure at International Paper to my service for the town,” he said.
When asked about the state tax cap and its influence on budgeting, Baker said he didn’t know how to answer the question. Geraghty responded, however that the tax cap represented state-mandated security for taxpayers that government would rein in spending.
Baker concluded with a statement of patriotism.
“I’m proud to be an American and a Warrensburger,” he said, reiterating that he was concerned about increasing government expenditures.
Geraghty concluded by saying he had the experience and skills that the town needed.
“If you want to keep Warrensburg moving forward, vote for me,” he said. “I’m a proven leader, a full-time supervisor, proud to live in our community.”
Other town leaders up for election, although they are unopposed in November, presented statements.
Alexander praises Geraghty's character, accomplishments
Town Board member John Alexander filled his time allotment with praise for Geraghty’s leadership and achievements while citing the accomplishments of the town board over the last eight years — upgrading the water and sewer system, constructing miles of new sidewalks, improving parks and recreation, obtaining a grant to restore the town bandstand, and encouraging a new $7.5 million health center to be developed downtown.
Rounds: 'When elected, I resolved turmoil'
Town Board member Bryan Rounds said he had first been elected during a period of turmoil, and he was proud of his role in helping unify town government.
“We’re now working together very well,” he said, noting also his work as the liaison with both the town planning and zoning departments and the town highway department.
“We’ve been mindful of taxes, we’ve updated the fleet, and the highway department is now in the best condition it’s ever been in,” he said.
Rounds added that he’d assisted in revising the town zoning ordinance to provide more flexibility for multiple land uses — which would boost development and help local enterprises.
Judge Fisk: 'I research the law, make common-sense decisions'
Town Justice Mindy Fisk said she was proud to serve the town for the past 12 years.
“An independent, impartial judiciary is crucial to the proper enforcement of the law and protection of individual rights,” she said. “You can count on me to research the law and make fair, common sense, and timely decisions. I run a professional court room that promotes integrity, honesty, maturity and fairness.”
She continued that she listened carefully to defendants’ issues, as well as upholding the law.
“Individuals before me are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve,” she added.