In anticipation of the Nov. 5 election, we asked candidates for offices in Philipstown a series of questions by email. Their written responses appear below, presented in alphabetical order by last name.
Robert Flaherty is seeking his second, four-year term, while Judy Farrell, who was appointed to the board on Dec. 27 to fill a vacancy, is seeking her first full term. They are being challenged for one of the two open seats by newcomer Corey Lyons.
Why are you seeking a seat on the board?
■ Farrell: I would like to return because my leadership, competency, experience and passion can help Philipstown thrive and provide residents with a good quality of life. I want to continue to bolster our opioid and substance-abuse programs and I plan on leading the board’s effort to fight for resources on behalf of our children and families.
■ Flaherty: I have always been involved with our community, and I have had the pleasure and honor to represent all citizens in Philipstown over the last four years. I believe I have a good understanding of the community’s issues and I listen to what people have to say. I want to continue to serve and move our community forward. I enjoy this position and I believe I can make a difference.
■ Lyons: I am running as a result of my upbringing; my family owns a business and it was here that I learned the value of service to others. I would like to bring that to this position: energy, compassion and business acumen. I have spent time with members of the community and learned that problems aren’t addressed, issues aren’t solved and input from the community isn’t sought. There are many things that make us different from others; however, there are more things that make us similar. We live in this community, we dine at local establishments, and our children attend school and play together as we worry about their safety. We share comparable problems, worry about the same things and all of us wonder about tomorrow. I promise to address issues head-on. I want Philipstown to be a wonderful place to live and raise a family for all.
What do you see as the two most important challenges facing Philipstown in the next four years?
■ Farrell: (1) Keeping Philipstown affordable. We must continue to work to keep taxes under the state cap while addressing needed infrastructure improvements. It may sound hard to achieve, but I’ve done it before; when I joined the board, I led an initiative to replace the lighting at our largest town building with LED. It takes creativity and common sense, qualities I have. (2) Preserving and protecting Philipstown from overdevelopment and environmental threats: we need to carefully manage growth and development. If we only look a few miles north, we can see how quickly development can overtake a town. We can decide on the landscape of our community. I have also communicated to our elected officials about barges in the river, which were stopped, and I am strongly fighting a potential fossil-fuel development right across the river.
■ Flaherty: (1) We have aging infrastructure (buildings). Our Town Hall is old and has not been updated for years. We are in the process of a renovation that will make it ADA-compliant with the installation of an elevator. New windows and siding will also be installed. We realize this will be an inconvenience for our residents, but it must be done. A new highway garage with office space is planned for 2020-2021. When both buildings are complete, they will serve our community by making things run more efficiently. (2) The opioid epidemic has continued to be challenging and we have been proactive in creating the addiction resource coordinator position and appointing Danielle Pack McCarthy. Danielle is having a tremendous impact giving families guidance and providing resources.
■ Lyons: (1) I believe our infrastructure and our willingness to work alongside each other are two of the biggest challenges we face. We need new energy and vision to problem-solve. My life experiences lead me to do just that. I’m a volunteer firefighter and I work in a family-owned business, where I was at my grandfather’s elbow, not just learning the business but learning life and common sense approaches to issues. I was taught that your problem is my problem. I will govern by that.
Should Philipstown, Cold Spring and Nelsonville consolidate into a single municipal government? Why or why not?
■ Farrell: We should ask and listen to the residents of each village to see if one municipality is desirable. We need to examine all the functions of each government; Cold Spring and Nelsonville are historic villages; a cost-benefit analysis is needed to determine if the efficiencies of merging municipalities will realize savings. Our town government does not have a lot of overhead; we have lean staffing; the supervisor and council positions are all part-time, the advisory boards are comprised of dedicated volunteers. The capacity to absorb village functions, boards, committees and events would have to be explored. I do not see how we could operationalize such a proposal and I have not seen any cost-savings or cost-benefit analysis presented. I am all for shared services, where possible, and eliminating needless duplication of services, if they exist.
■ Flaherty: Each municipality is unique, with its own set of issues, and I believe each board is doing a good job in handling the tasks at hand. At this time, I do not think consolidation is the answer. It would require full-time elected officials, rather than part-time. We can look at shared services, such as we have done with the Cold Spring and Philipstown building inspector/department. We can look at expanding this with Nelsonville and look at investigating other areas for which we can provide shared services.
■ Lyons: Only the residents can decide this. Opinions and facts need to be presented, people have to be heard who represent all perspectives. One person should not decide this. I’d like input and discussion with many as there are so many sides to this and a decision must be well thought-out. I’d recommend putting together a panel comprised of people of many different walks of life. Public hearings, governmental employees — there are many factors that must be considered. This brings me to my belief, like that of President Lincoln, that we are a government for the people, by the people and of the people. And we should govern like this.
Tina Merando, who has served four, 4-year terms as town clerk, is being challenged by Tara Percacciolo, who works in the town clerk’s office.
Why are you the best candidate for the job?
■ Merando: I have 26 years of experience as deputy town clerk and town clerk. There are daily challenges in the Office of Town Clerk, such as being record-keeper for the Town Board, the record management officer, tax collection and vital records clerk, to name a few, which demands knowledge of all aspects of the task and to keep new procedures and policies up to date.
■ Percacciolo: I have been working for Philipstown since March 2016, when I was hired as a clerk in the town clerk’s office. I have firsthand knowledge of the duties of the town clerk and performed many of them directly. I am hard-working and detail-oriented, the exact traits the town needs to elevate the efficiency and effectiveness of the office.
If elected, what would be your two priorities for the next four years?
■ Merando: (1) To continue serving the residents of Philipstown with accurate information in a professional and respectful manner. (2) I had the opportunity to work closely with the county clerk digitizing town records, I would like to continue to do that to maintain the database and storage of important records.
■ Percacciolo: (1) My top priority would be to revamp the town website. We are a small town and Town Hall is lightly staffed. The site offers a lot of information but is often out-of-date and can be extremely difficult to navigate. Through my work in the building department, as well as the town clerk’s office, I know firsthand that calls come in all the time from residents who are on the site but can’t find what they’re looking for — or find information that is seriously out of date. (2) A better website and better use of other communication technologies would help with another priority: building on community and connection throughout the town. I’ve spoken to many residents in Continental Village, for instance, who feel like they are “the lost side” of Philipstown. Sometimes that seems true: We hear a lot about events around Garrison and Cold Spring, but how can we better promote town unity and connection in all parts of Philipstown? I would love to help facilitate that as town clerk.
The clerks of Cold Spring and Nelsonville are appointed, rather than elected. Should the Philipstown clerk be appointed? Why or why not?
■ Merando: The town clerk and the highway superintendent were appointed positions until 1981, when the Town Board proposed that both positions be elected, and the proposition was approved by voters. They also increased the term of office from two to four years and put the town clerk in charge of tax collection, saving taxpayer dollars. I believe the positions should be elected, giving residents the opportunity to select the best person for the job. This eliminates partisan choices.
■ Percacciolo: I believe the office should be elected. While the town clerk doesn’t set policy or pass laws, it is an incredibly important position because the clerk is often the face of the town to residents needing service or assistance. The town runs effectively when the clerk works efficiently. Residents should have the right to have their voice heard through a vote if the clerk is not able to best serve their needs. Voting by residents ensures the town clerk is held accountable and performing up to the duties of the job.
Other Philipstown Races
Richard Shea (D), unopposed
Stephen Tomann (R), unopposed
Carl Frisenda (D), unopposed