WARRENSBURG - There's a robust competition for the top office in town this year, with a choice between two experienced politicians seeking the supervisor post.
Former town supervisor and funeral home owner Maynard D. Baker (R,I) is challenging incumbent supervisor Kevin Geraghty (R,C), long-time officer of the local fire company, for a four-year term. For Warrensburg town board, former town planning board member and chair Bryan Rounds (R) is challenging incumbent trustees John Alexander (R ), a funeral home owner, and Joseph Barlow, R,C,I) an insurance executive.
At the center of the supervisor race are allegations by Baker that Geraghty has been extravagant with the taxpayers' money - but Geraghty disputes the charge.
Baker said that from 2005 to 2009, Geraghty increased the budget by $750,000, a hike of 28 percent. Geraghty counters that he wasn't responsible for the first year's spending plan - it was his predecessor - and the tax rate has increased only 3.8 percent per year during his tenure, a figure Baker says doesn't tell the whole story. But Geraghty added that much of the increases were due to mandated programs or expenses over which the local board doesn't wield control. He said this year's tax rate of $3.40 per $1,000 of assessed valuation is the town's lowest since 1995. But Baker said this figure needs to be evaluated in light of the taxpayers recent hikes in assessments due to revaluation.
Geraghty notes his fiscal cost-cutting has been proven as county budget officer - under his tenure this year, dozens of positions have been eliminated, and spending on programs and bureaucracy has been cut by millions of dollars. Also, he noted he has experience as an operations executive with a Fortune 500 company. Baker notes he has launched two successful funeral home enterprises.
Baker has spoken out against installing and activating water meters, saying it's an expensive proposition with upgrade costs projected at $170,000. Geraghty has countered that metered water is the responsible, fair way to charge, so people can't abuse the system under flat charges.
Baker has campaigned that one of the town's wells, the Swan St. well, needs to go offline as it is producing water that doesn't meet state standards.
Rather than spend $170,000 on meters, he said that spending $35,000 for a new well would be a better investment.
He's also criticized Geraghty and the town board for spending another $140,000 on a street sweeper. He's suggested the board should have paid $10,000 for repairs rather than the larger sum. Geraghty counters that the old street sweeper was getting costly to repair - and with its vital parts near failure, it was approaching the end of its useful life.
Both Baker and Geraghty say they've been prudent with the taxpayers' money. Geraghty's been supervisor for four years, and Baker served in the post from 1988 through 1997. Both said they were successful at obtaining grant money. Baker notes he closed the town landfill for $3 million at no cost to the taxpayer, obtained $3.5 million in grants for a $4.5 million sewer system for town residents, and was in power when a $500,000 water tank was constructed and $750,000 in water lines were laid, both at little or no cost to taxpayers. Geraghty noted his administration has brought a professional grants writer on staff who is both obtaining and seeking more and more grants, for parks and recreation, basic infrastructure, and other town amenities, as the months go by.
Both are on the ticket with supplementary party labels, so they'll undoubtedly be back wrangling in November.
Board candidates look to future
In the town board race, incumbents John Alexander and Joe Barlow cite the accomplishments of the past four years, which include developing two town parks, bringing a manufacturing operation to the town Industrial Park, and overseing computerization of many town functions and records.
Challenger Bryan Rounds, owner-operator of Bryan Rounds Paving & Excavating, echoes Baker's objective of cutting spending. "There's an abundance of extravagance," he said.
Alexander and Barlow counter that they've been frugal with taxpayer money while vastly improving the lives of residents - plus that Baker and Rounds' allies, Austin Markey and Dean Ackley, have voted in favor of the expenditures.
Rounds argues that assessments are too high. Alexander counters that the town board has no control over assessments, equalization rates, and school tax bills.
Rounds, however, said that town employees shouldn't be cruising around town in new town vehicles. Older models, with tighter control over use would be more frugal, he said. Also, the town seems management top-heavy, he said, with department heads earning about twice the average local private-sector wage.
All three cite their successful business experience. Rounds notes also that he has personal experience in infrastructure construction, and that such expertise might be useful as the town takes on such pending upgrades.
Barlow cites his involvement in a roster of community groups. Alexander notes his service on the school board and the Hudson Headwaters Board.
Alexander notes his work in boosting public safety through his work to bring the sheriff's substation back to town. Rounds said his independent viewpoint would provide balance on the board. Both Rounds and Alexander said that their knowledge of municipal planning will be helpful in the future. Rounds served for 9 years on the town planning board. Alexander said that with Luther Forest developing and Gore Mountain evolving, Warrensburg has potential benefits if planning is strategic.
"We're in the middle of a lot of success stories, and we need to capitalize," he said, suggesting that the hamlet expand northward. "We need to allow businesses to grow up here without APA restrictions," he said.
Rounds said that his talent as a natural-born negotiator would be useful on the town board, when the two factions chafe.
"I can provide the voice of reason between opposing viewpoints," he said.