Questions for Candidates: Nelsonville Board

Nelsonville Village Hall (File photo)

Polls will be open March 16 from noon to 9 p.m.

There are four candidates for two open seats on the Nelsonville Village Board. The election is Tuesday (March 16).

The candidates are George Eisenbach, a retired civil engineer; Kathleen Maloney, an optometrist working in corporate strategy; Alan Potts, a science teacher who served on the board from 2017 to 2019; and Maria Zhynovitch, a state appellate court attorney. Incumbents Lisa Mechaley and Dove Pedlosky are not running for re-election.

Below are written responses to questions posed to the candidates by The Current. The polls will be open at Village Hall, 258 Main St., from noon to 9 p.m.

What qualifications do you have for being a village trustee, and why should voters choose you over your opponents?

EisenbachEisenbach: As a licensed engineer with decades of experience planning and managing capital projects for Fortune 500 companies, I’ll bring my technical and cost-management experience to the Village Board. Nelsonville faces big decisions about infrastructure: water supply access, sewers, street repaving and 5G. The choices we make now will impact our health, property values and community character for a generation. We need trustees with training and experience to directly oversee infrastructure projects and make sure everything is done right and on budget.

MaloneyMaloney: In my job, my role is to evaluate new technologies from both medical and business perspectives. A core part of my responsibility is objectivity — putting aside my own preferences to prioritize what is best for our patients and the business. As a trustee, this will translate to making decisions based on facts and data, and to prioritize solutions that are best for all residents, not just a vocal few. My clinical and corporate roles require rapid mastery of new concepts. I’m sure I’m in for a learning curve as a trustee, but I’m confident that I can get up to speed quickly, and I won’t be shy about asking questions until I get there. I also have experience working in government affairs at the state and federal levels, and have a good understanding of how things get done here in New York. Finally, I’m mom to a 1-year-old boy, and am so thankful to be raising him here. My family fuels my commitment to ensuring responsible decisions are made about Nelsonville’s future.

PottsPotts: I previously served as a trustee and in 2019 lost the highly unusual three-way race by 11 votes. I understand the duties of the position as well as the intricacies and importance of being a good steward of our village affairs. I am practical, honest and honorable. My motivation is for the welfare of Nelsonville residents, rather than any specific issue or special interest. I welcome and will solicit input from Nelsonville neighbors to catalyze resident involvement.

ZhynovitchZhynovitch: My experience as a litigator and now as an attorney with the appellate courts would be an asset to the village. My position with the appellate division involves analyzing and making recommendations to judges on the same issues that villages regularly encounter: contracts, accidents, environmental conservancy and municipal law. The essence of my job is to recommend an equitable and lawful outcome for dueling parties. I promise to approach being a trustee in the same way — to view problems with an open mind and to look for resolutions based on sound practices that are fair and feasible for the village residents. My common-sense instincts to problem-solving would serve Nelsonville well.

Should the Village Board have handled the cell tower lawsuit filed by Homeland Towers differently? If so, how?

EisenbachEisenbach: The telecoms bullied our Village Board into accepting the settlement and into allowing dangerous changes to the original plan. That’s why I joined 17 neighbors in a federal lawsuit against it. We couldn’t sit back while these global corporations threaten to destroy our village finances and build a cell tower that violates our zoning laws, property rights and state fire code. The 95-foot tower, and its parking lot and winding access road, will destroy the tranquility of the historic Cold Spring Cemetery. In my professional opinion, the switchbacks on the access road are too severe and steep. It’s just a matter of time before someone gets hurt — maybe a volunteer firefighter or our neighbors. Remember, this tower will stand next to homes on a wooded hill without access to town water for firefighting. It’s a disaster waiting to happen. We could debate past mistakes but what matters now are the lessons we learn for future fights. While we await the court’s decision on the tower’s fate, the village should comply with and enforce all laws including the temporary restraining order, environmental regulations and our rights as a community.

MaloneyMaloney: The responsible thing to do was to pursue a settlement. We are a very small village and we do not have deep pockets. Pursuing a long-shot court case would have put the future of our village in jeopardy and left us with virtually no ability to negotiate.

PottsPotts: This is a polarizing question, particularly for anyone who wasn’t directly involved in the discussion. I do know that federal law favors telecommunication providers and that the litigation could have consumed our limited finances. I also know that during litigation the Village Board is not allowed to comment on some parts of the proceedings, thereby giving the appearance of a lack of transparency. With this lawsuit, my feeling was that the board was truly distraught with the idea of the settlement but did what they and their legal counsel felt was in the best interests of Nelsonville. We need to learn from this and look ahead to future challenges, such as 5G.

ZhynovitchZhynovitch: The board had very little choice other than settling the lawsuit. First, the court was restricted from considering the potential impact of the tower on the health and property values of the local residents. Second, the village’s objection to the tower on aesthetic grounds was undermined by a finding of the State Historic Preservation Office that the initial tower design at an increased height would not have a negative visual impact on the community. Third, under federal telecommunications law, it was highly likely the village was going to lose the lawsuit before the case even got to trial and would have suffered financial ruin.

Aside from the cell tower matter, what are the biggest issues facing the village? And how would you, as a trustee, address them?

EisenbachEisenbach: Two huge issues are water supply access and 5G. To secure the cracking concrete dam that holds our water, we need to start working with Cold Spring, the county and state. I’ll bring my technical training to the debate about 5G and ensure we have a full and open public discussion that isn’t cut short by the telecoms. I will not support any 5G plan unless I’m certain it’s 100 percent safe for our children. For too long, we’ve allowed ourselves to be divided: Republicans versus Democrats, Nelsonville versus Cold Spring, Rockledge Road versus Secor Street. It’s time we come together to meet the real threats to our community, our environment and our homes.

MaloneyMaloney: While I don’t foresee anything imminent that will match the cell tower in impact and emotion, there are certainly other issues that are less exciting but enormously consequential, such as evaluating sewers and our water supply, and updating our comprehensive plan. With each of these, I would encourage a methodical, data-driven approach to assess both the scope of the problem and the suitability of the proposed solutions. I am sure there will also be no shortage of more mundane issues, and I am committed to working hard to handle those adeptly, with my ultimate goal being the preservation of Nelsonville’s unique character. We are so fortunate to live in a small, independent village, in control of its own destiny. We should continue to act and spend in a way that will preserve this position for generations to come.

PottsPotts: Airbnb regulation (which I believe is almost finished), the feasibility of a sewer system extension, potential 5G installations, the lease of the Putnam sheriff substation (and costs for building repairs), updating the comprehensive plan, the Secor Street paving and maintaining basic services in a cost-efficient manner. I would seek to make wise, resident-informed decisions about management of village resources. Additionally, I will ensure Nelsonville interests are represented with our neighboring villages, particularly with regard to shared costs and services. Nelsonville needs to build stronger and more equitable relationships with our neighbors. I would oppose anything with the potential to financially overextend our village. After all, if Nelsonville goes bankrupt, our village will cease to exist. Again, my primary concern is for Nelsonville and its residents.

ZhynovitchZhynovitch: This year the village has been faced with fairly substantial issues, such as regulating 5G technology, expansion of the conservation easement in the Nelsonville Woods, a series of lawsuits and an ongoing debate over short-term rentals. My overarching concern is to preserve the look and feel of this small and independent-minded community that first attracted me and my husband and which we feel proud to be part of. Having to do more with less and looking for creative solutions to stretch the village’s budget will always be a priority. My goals as a trustee would be to focus on maintaining and improving Nelsonville’s infrastructure, our small public spaces, and to work alongside the community in updating our comprehensive plan before the next expensive issue arises.

2 thoughts on “Questions for Candidates: Nelsonville Board

  1. As a resident of Nelsonville, I want to thank all four of these highly-qualified candidates for offering to serve our community. It will be a difficult decision to vote for just two of them. I also want to thank The Highlands Current for being the only local newspaper to cover our village election. My vote will be more informed thanks to your efforts!

  2. After reading the Village Board candidates’ statements on the cell tower, I noted that, although their positions differed on what should have been done to fight it, none welcomed its arrival.

    The next day, I watched the documentary Invisible Hand, in which the people of Grant Township in Pennsylvania succeed in ridding themselves of a hydrofracking waste installation by adding to their governing documents an acknowledgment that nature has rights.

    Might Nelsonville take a similar tack? I highly recommend this film to anyone wishing to fight the corporate zombies and their absurd claim to personhood.