||[Return to Home Page] [Subscriptions] [Newsstands] [Contact Us] [Archives]
Hilltowns Archives The Altamont Enterprise, October 20, 2005
Berne unopposed profiles
By Matt Cook
BERNEIn Berne, several incumbents are seeking reelection in unopposed races.
They are: highway Superintendent Raymond Storm, town Justice Kenneth Bunzey, town Clerk Patricia Favreau, Assessor Robert Motschmann, and Receiver of Taxes Gerald OMalley. All are Democrats.
After eight years as highway superintendent, Raymond Storm is running unopposed for the first time.
"It’s a nice feeling," he said.
Storm said his experience makes him the best person to be highway superintendent.
"I can help the residents in the town of Berne," Storm said. "I’ve been doing it for eight years. I just do the best I can."
Storm, 50, has lived in Berne for 22 years. He was elected in 1997 after the long-time superintendent, Robert Schultes, retired. The highway superintendent earns an annual salary of $42,750.
Storms wife, Karen, is a member of the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board.
Along with the rest of the world, the Berne highway department is becoming more and more computerized. Storm said he just oversaw the installation of an automated fuel system and fleet-management software.
As superintendent, Storm is responsible for researching and recommending new equipment to be purchased by the town board. He works hard to get the best price, either through bids or state contract, he said.
"I try to work closely with the board and the supervisor," Storm said.
Storm also tries to work closely with other town highway departments, sharing equipment to save money, he said.
As the manager of most of the towns employees, Storm tries to be fair.
"I try to treat them the same way I would like to be treated," he said.
Kenneth Bunzey has been a town justice for 12 years and he thinks hes still the right man for the job.
"I still feel that I have something to offer the community. I’m trying to still give back to the community what they’ve given to me," Bunzey said.
Bunzey, 52, has lived in Berne his whole life. He works as a teachers assistant at Berne-Knox-Westerlo and as the varsity track coach and modified cross-country coach. He holds an associates degree from the State University of New York College at Delhi.
Bunzey said his message in life is, "I’m for children." Working at the school, he said, "You try to help the kids and steer them down the correct road so you don’t see them in Justice Court later on."
Being a judge in a small town is a lot different than in a larger town or city, Bunzey said; you know most of the defendants, he said.
"The hardest part of being a judge is passing down the same decisions for people you like and people you don’t like," Bunzey said.
Bunzey said he and the other town justice try to trade cases when the defendant has too close of a relationship with the judge, but thats not always possible.
"You just try to treat everybody the same," Bunzey said. "We really do things by the book here in Berne Justice Court."
Bunzey is a graduate of the Advanced Justice Education Program and takes judicial update courses every year.
"It’s important to know the law and you have to stay up on the law," he said.
He earns $7,125 annually in the part-time post.
Town clerk for 26 years, Patricia Favreau has worked for four different supervisors.
"I have not had a problem with any of them," she said. Even in turbulent years, like this past one, she’s been able to put a non-partisan face on the town, she said.
Though unopposed, shes running for office yet again.
"I’m dedicated. I’m committed to public service," Favreau said. "I’ve demonstrated that I can keep abreast of change."
Favreau has been in office since 1980. When she started, she said, "People used to think of the town clerk just as a license-issuing service."
Favreau does much more than that, like serving as registrar, deputy tax collector, notary, passport acceptor, and editor of the town newsletter, she said.
"Historically, the town clerk serves as the direct link to the town government," she said. "I enjoy being that link."
Favreau has lived in Berne since 1943 and is a graduate of Berne-Knox High School. She is both a certified municipal clerk and a registered municipal clerk. She is a member of national and international municipal clerks associations, and, in April, she became the president of the New York State Town Clerks Association, which represents 880 of New Yorks 932 towns.
Because she’s involved with these organizations, Favreau can keep up on the issues that are being faced in every town in the state. For example, she said, "Right now, we’re all concerned about the Help America Vote Act. It’s not solved as of yet."
A widow, Favreau said she enjoys the challenges of being town clerk and the chance to interact with the wide range of people in Berne.
"I need to have a job, and I have a nice one," she said.
The town clerk is paid $32,000 annually.
"I enjoy doing this job. I feel we’ve done a good job so far and we can continue on," said Robert Motschmann, a Democrat running for re-election as an assessor in Berne.
Berne has three part-time assessors who are paid $6,750 each.
Motschmann has been in office for eight years, two four-year terms. A Berne resident since 1970, Motschmann works as a salesman for Hannay Reels in Westerlo. He has one year of college and a high school education.
Motschmann said, to help with his post, he tries to keep up on building projects in the area and the costs involved. Hes planning a building project himself, he said.
One of the hardest parts of his job, he said, is explaining the technicalities of assessment to residents. The three assessors try to help people find exemptions, he said.
"We kind of pride ourselves in helping the seniors in the town," Motschmann said.
Motschmann said he has had the necessary training to be an assessor.
"They have a list of courses you have to take," he said. "You keep pretty busy with that."
RECEIVER OF TAXES
Gerald OMalley is another long-time elected official in the town of Berne. After 14 years, hes running again for receiver of taxes.
"I enjoy it. I keep in touch with the people," O’Malley said. "I get to know my neighbors."
A retired Key Bank computer analyst, OMalley feels his professional background, both in finance and computing, makes him right for the job. He prides himself on his availability.
"A lot of the time, people can just come to my house and drop off their payments," O’Malley said.
A resident of Berne since 1946, OMalley, 64, graduated from Berne-Knox High School and attended The College of Saint Rose. At Key Bank, he started working with computers just as the company started using computers.
"They weren’t actually computers when I started," O’Malley said, "just adding machines."
So, he has no problem keeping the towns tax records on a computer file.
"I’ve got 12 years of stuff now," he said. "It’s a pretty good-sized file."
OMalley explained his job as receiver of taxes. He sends out bills to taxpayers, and then collects their payment. If taxpayers dont pay their bills, OMalley said, its not his job to make them. At the end of the tax period, he sends his records to Albany County, which is responsible for tracking down delinquent payments.
Though paying taxes isn’t anyone’s favorite thing to do, O’Malley said, "I try to make it as pleasant as possible."
The tax collector is paid $5,900 annually.
Berne election profiles: supervisor, town board
By Matt Cook
BERNEDuring his tumultuous first four years in office, Supervisor Kevin Crosier has overseen a number of changes in the town of Berne, from a new transfer station to a sewer project. Though he was elected on the Republican ticket, the rest of the town board, all Democrats, have supported Crosiers ideas with one unanimous vote after another.
Only on the most controversial vote of Crosiers term, in January to rezone the hamlet of Berne, was the board split, but not along party lines. Two of the four Democratic board members voted against the rezoning, and one is now running for supervisor.
Both major parties have backed candidates for supervisor and for town board. Voters will cost their ballots Nov. 8 for two of the four council candidates and one of the two supervisor candidates; the top vote-getters will assume office on Jan. 1.
Three-term Councilman Mark Huth, a Democrat who voted with Crosier on the rezoning, is not seeking reelection, guaranteeing there will be at least one change to the town board in 2006.
Democrats outnumber Republicans about four to one in the town of Berne and, for decades, the government has been dominated by Democrats.
The part-time supervisor is paid an annual salary of $12,500 and the council members are paid $3,100 each. Both posts carry four-year terms.
The rural town has a population of about 2,800 and an annual budget of about $1.6 million.
The Enterprise interviewed the candidates for supervisor and town board and asked questions on five issues:
Hamlet rezoning: The most divisive issue in the past few years in Berne was the rezoning of the hamlet of Berne from largely residential to traditional neighborhood mixed use. Some opposed the inclusion of gas stations in the hamlet while others opposed the entire plan. Candidates were asked if they thought the plan was good for the town and, if not, how they would have changed it.
Stewarts caused controversy by planning a convenience store and gas station for the center of the hamlet, but withdrew its plan because of the new zoning.
Rezoning throughout the town: Currently, with the help of a grant from the Capital District Transportation Committee, the town is investigating making similar zoning changes in the hamlet of East Berne. Candidates were asked if such a thing were needed in East Berne or other parts of town.
Growth: If Tech Valley becomes a reality in the Capital Region, some say it would mean a lot of people would move to the Hilltowns. Candidates were asked how they would balance that with preserving the towns farms and open space.
Taxes: Candidates were asked how important it is for the town to keep taxes low and how it should do that.
The space crunch: The Berne Library and the Town Hall, which share an old hotel building, are facing a severe space problem. Candidates were asked what the town could do to help solve the problem and if they supported constructing or purchasing a new town hall.
Though he told The Enterprise a few months ago he was considering offers to run for higher office, Supervisor Kevin Crosier, a registered Democrat, has thrown his hat in the ring for re-election, winning the nominations of the Republican, Conservative, and Working Families parties.
"I’m running because I’ve been a life-long resident in the town of Berne and I have a commitment to my community," Crosier said.
Crosier, 47, works as a member of the Albany Fire Department, and has been recognized twice for bravery. He is a graduate of Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School and paramedic school. Crosier is a founding member of the Friends of the Heldberbergs, a Hilltown group that works to preserve open space while strengthening the local economy.
Before becoming supervisor in 2001, Crosier had not held public office. His father, John Crosier, is the chairman of the Berne Planning Board.
Crosier notes some of his proudest accomplishments in office: balancing the budget and creating a surplus, bringing $1.25 million in grant money to Berne, and making Berne Heritage Days an annual event.
As he speaks, he continually returns to his two favorite topics: preserving open space and maintaining a rural economy.
"We need to have an agriculture and rural-based economy. That is the key to the next four years," Crosier said, "preserving the things that I had when I was a kid growing up here." His parents ran a store in East Berne.
On the Berne hamlet plan, Crosier is an enthusiastic supporter, both of the plan itself and the discussion it created in the town.
"We opened up government. We made it an open process," Crosier said. "We need to protect our rural character, and we did that."
Successful local economies are created only when a municipal government involves itself in the economy, as Berne did with the hamlet plan, Crosier said. Berne used to have plenty of businesses, but they left, and now theyre coming back, he said.
"Why are they" Because the town government is involved and we are committed to making a good economy," Crosier said. "The past administration just wasn’t involved."
On zoning in other parts of town, Crosier supports clustering business in the existing hamlets.
"Business opportunities should be where businesses have historically been in town for the past 100 years," Crosier said. "I don’t believe that businesses should be placed in green farm fields."
The Hilltown Market, run by the Friends of the Helderbergs weekly through the summer, is evidence that this economic model can sustain the town, Crosier said.
"We have and agricultural economy in the Hilltowns and it’s alive and well and it’s going to get better," he said.
On impending growth, Crosier said he has been in contact with County Executive Mike Breslin and the people behind Tech Valley and they support his ideas for rural preservation. If a population explosion hits the Capital Region, instead of a location for new homes, the Hilltowns can be a destination for those seeking recreation, locally made products, and temporary relief from crowded cities and suburbs, Crosier said.
"We have one thing that nobody else in Albany County has: rich natural resources," he said.
Berne can work with Tech Valley if Tech Valley helps the town keep its resources, Crosier said.
"We can’t, obviously, keep building out of the Hilltowns, but there are ways we can slow it down," he said.
On taxes, Crosier cites his record. He has prepared a budget for 2006 that has an estimated decrease of 1 percent in the tax rate, he said. The town is paying less for workers compensation than it did in 2001, and, even with a new transfer station under construction, the town will pay less in 2006 to operate it than it did in 2001, Crosier said.
"How did we do this" Because we got our spending in line and we did good budgeting," Crosier said.
Now, he said, the town has a half-million-dollar surplus, which it can use for projects like the transfer station without raising taxes. For example, Crosier said, if the town uses the surplus to pay off the debt on the transfer station, it will still have about $360,000 left to use for a project like a new town hall.
"We’re in very good shape to see a new town hall or library," he said.
Councilman James Hamilton thinks hes the man to bring peace to the warring neighbors in Berne.
"This has been a contentious period in the town of Berne," Hamilton said. "I would like to bring the town back together. This is a wonderful town and I hate to see people arguing with each other."
The Democratic candidate for supervisor is halfway through his first elected term on the town board. Hamilton was appointed to the town board to fill a vacant seat and then ran successfully two years ago. Before that, he was a member of the Berne Youth Council.
In addition to the Democrats, Hamilton has won the nomination of the Independence Party and is endorsed by New York League of Conservation Voters. As a write-in candidate, Hamilton tied Crosier in the primary for the Conservative Party nomination, but the partys committee broke the tie by choosing Crosier.
Hamilton, 51, works as an assistant professor of industry at Hudson Valley Community College. He is near completion of a masters degree in education, and holds a bachelors degree in industrial technology. He is a graduate of Voorheesvilles Clayton A. Bouton High School.
Hamilton noted his experience on the board of directors of the Hilltowns Players and the Berne-Knox-Westerlo Community Track Committee.
"Almost anything I’ve been involved with, I’ve ended up in the management end of it," Hamilton said.
Hamilton feels his personality and management experience suits him for the supervisor position.
"I’m easy to get along with," Hamilton said. "I can see both sides of an issue."
Among his ideas for the town, Hamilton wants the government to have better communication with the residents. He says he will run meetings, "in the spirit of the New York State Open-Meetings Law," publish agendas before meetings, and make the supervisor’s phone number and office hours available.
Hamilton also wants to bring bicycle lanes to the main roads through the hamlet of Berne. Bicycle lanes are cheaper and easier to get than sidewalks, he said.
"It troubles me every time I see a 12-year-old on County Route 443 at dusk," he said.
On the rezoning, Hamilton said, "It needed to be done. I believe the rezoning is good. I’m not sure I agree with the way it was handled. There were people who feel there were mistakes."
However, Hamilton said, gas stations should not be allowed right in middle of the towns hamlet; they should be on the edges.
"It isn’t the typical business that people want standing between their houses," he said.
Just before Hamilton voted against the rezoning in January, he said he would vote for it if it didnt allow gas stations in the hamlet.
On zoning in other parts of town, Hamilton said, "I feel we should allow more business throughout town, open up our zoning."
For example, Hamilton said, if someone wanted to open a new sawmill in town, the only place the zoning allows it is in the hamlet of East Berne.
"That makes no sense whatsoever," he said.
Hamilton said the towns zoning can be used to control the impending growth that may come with Tech Valley.
"There is a good chance we will have growth in this town," Hamilton said. "We have to zone properly so that our growth is slow and it’s where we want it to be."
Part of this, he said, would be to preserve open space and farmland.
"There are not really that many farms left in the town of Berne, or Albany County," Hamilton said. "It’s very important."
On taxes, Hamilton said, "The town of Berne taxes are relatively stable. They have been for a long time. The biggest complaint I hear from people is about school taxes. Part of the problem is we’re a rural community."
To help keep costs down, though, Hamilton said, "One of the things I intend to do is pursue grant funding, which I will if elected, or just as a councilman."
The town has considered hiring a grant writer for this task, but Hamilton said a grant committee of volunteers would be better.
"I think we have professional people in this town with the skills we need," Hamilton said.
On the space crunch, Hamilton supports either the town hall or the library moving to a new location.
"We really need to go with one [of the options] in a decent period of time," Hamilton said. "The library is very cramped."
Hamilton suggested that there may be more grant money available to fund the librarys move than the town halls.
Councilman Joseph Golden, a Democrat, feels that already having served one four-year term on the town board gives him the experience necessary to be effective in a second term.
"For anyone on the town board, it takes a while," Golden said. "What you learn in the first term is invaluable."
Golden wants to use his experience to help the town and see through projects that he was involved with during his first term, like the establishment of the Berne hamlet sewer district.
Golden, 63, of East Berne, is a retired government and economics teacher. He formerly served on the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board and the Berne Planning Board. Hes a graduate of Berne-Knox High School and the State University of New York College at New Paltz. He served four years in the United States Marine Corps.
Golden said he tries to represent the whole town, not just those people who attend town meetings. This philosophy has led him to ask questions at board meetings, a practice which, he said, is often mistaken as hostility by those in attendance. He doesnt apologize for that.
"I don’t think I can be passive in a representative government," Golden said.
On the Berne hamlet, Golden said the controversy was good for the town. It led to discussion and participation in government, he said.
"I think people got in the habit and came to meetings," Golden said.
On the zoning itself, Golden said, "Like most things, it’s more complex than either/ or." Though he voted for the zoning, Golden was "undecided right up to the last minute," over the inclusion of gas stations, he said.
Golden said he was disappointed Stewarts chose the location it did, but glad the zoning prevented the store from moving in.
"I think the zoning was very well constructed. I think Nan Stolzenberg was one of the best investments that we made," he said, referring to the town’s planner.
On zoning elsewhere, Golden said, "I think there are a lot of things in the zoning that are vague. Somebody needs to go down in there and define things."
For example, Golden said, regulations regarding road frontage aren’t specific enough. The zoning needs to be clarified, "particularly for people who can’t afford to get an attorney," he said.
On possible growth in the Hilltowns, Golden said its already happening, Tech Valley or not. He cited the 22 building permits issued for new homes in Berne in the past year.
"Change is going to come," Golden said. "You have to manage it or it manages you."
The town needs to be aware that it has rural areas and "suburban enclaves" like the hamlets, Golden said. Regulations, like one in Guilderland that doesn’t allow commercial vehicles to park in driveways overnight, may be completely inappropriate in Berne, he said.
"I want to make sure we get ahead of those kinds of things and say, ‘Time out,’" Golden said.
At the same time, he said, "We also have to be realistic about infrastructure." More than in the past, residents expect paved roads, sewers, and water, he said.
On taxes, Golden said they may never go down unless there is a radical change.
"I think what you’re going to have to do is change how you’re going to collect them," he said.
Property tax is one of the worst ways to collect taxes, he said, because assessments are based on the potential development value of property, not what its owners are able to pay.
"If I was in charge, I would think we would start transferring more and more to an income-based tax," Golden said.
Although the decision to change the tax system would be made by the state, Golden said, the town can do its part by continually monitoring the problem and "keep beating on elected officials at the state level."
Golden cited STAR, the states School Tax Relief program, which gives set assessment reductions to any property-owner who applies, and an added break to senior citizens.
"That came from political pressure," Golden said.
On the space crunch, Golden, who serves as the town boards liaison to the library board, said he thinks the library will probably be able to move out of the town hall to a larger space elsewhere on its own, allowing the town government to expand into the whole building.
"I don’t think anybody’s opposed to the library," he said.
Democrat Wayne Emory wants to take on the challenge of the town board as he did the challenge of the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board several years ago. The former school board member is running for town government for the first time. He decided to run, he said, after several people approached him about filling Councilman Mark Huths empty seat.
"I’ve always taken an active interest in what I’ve gotten involved in," Emory said.
Emory, 48, works as a graphic artist for the New York State Lottery. Originally from Fort Plain, he is a graduate of Bryant and Stratton College. In the Hilltowns, he has been involved in the Boy Scouts and a BKW shared decision-making team, and was a recipient of the BKW School District award for outstanding contribution to the district.
Though he admits they are very different organizations, he feels much of his experience from the school board can be applied to the town board. The rest he can learn, he said.
"I wouldn’t call myself a leader, but I’m a quick learner," Emory said.
On the Berne hamlet and zoning in general, Emory said, "The fact that they had to re-examine it is a very important thing." A similar re-examination should take place in the rest of the town, he said.
"Rules have changed and regulations have changed over the years and it really needs to be looked at," Emory said.
On growth in the Hilltowns, Emory said, "I think it’s important to maintain some kind of a balance."
This could be done, he suggested, as the town revisits its zoning.
Emory also calls for balance when it comes to taxes.
"It’s a difficult thing you have to do," he said. "When you can cut, you cut. On the other hand, you have to figure out what’s best for the town."
A fiscally responsible town board member has to consider the needs of the town with the needs of the taxpayers who are footing the bill, he said.
"It’s very important for a representative that they represent all the people honestly and openly," Emory said. "If the taxpayer puts you there, it’s a very high priority."
On the space crunch, Emory noted that the library has changed from a place just to get books into a place to gather information. Its good the library is looking for space elsewhere, whether the town assists in that effort or not, he said.
"They’re going to have to do something," Emory said. "Space is an issue for everyone."
"If I don’t get out there and do my public service for my community and myself, I have no reason to sit back and complain about everything," said Mary Overbaugh, a Republican candidate for town board.
Overbaugh believes her personality is perfectly suited to the board.
"I’m very up-front and open with my opinions," she said. "I have to investigate something before I can make a decision. I’m never pushed into a decision. I’m going to do what I think is best for everybody."
A Berne resident for two decades, Overbaugh, 42, works as an office assistant for Karner Psychological Associates. A graduate of Guilderland High School, Overbaugh came to the Hilltowns after she married a life-long Berne resident. She lives in the hamlet of Berne.
If elected, Overbaugh wants to work on creating a water district in the hamlet along with the sewer district. Residents now have to rely on wells, which are drying up in some places, Overbaugh said.
"I would just like to see my neighbors have water," she said.
On the Berne hamlet zoning, Overbaugh said, "I was very much for it. It’s going to bring small business to town, and, hopefully, help us cut some of our taxes."
Overbaugh was heartened that the zoning change kept Stewarts out of the hamlet.
"I didn’t want these big commercial businesses coming in to the town and turning it into a Central Avenue," she said.
On zoning elsewhere in the town and possible growth, Overbaugh said, "There’s an awful lot of open land here and sprawl is going to happen if we’re not careful."
She said the whole town should be rezoned like the hamlet.
"I don’t want a Wal-Mart in there. I don’t want a Price Chopper in there," Overbaugh said.
However, she said, small businesses are the key to keeping taxes low. She would like small businesses to return to the town.
"Ten years ago, we used to have all the restaurants and gas stations and things the families can do together," she said. "Right now, there’s nothing...The more businesses get in here, the more they can feed off of one another."
On the space crunch, Overbaugh supports remodeling or renovating the old town hall and library building itself.
If grant money were available to fund it, Overbaugh would support moving the town hall or building a new one, but she doesnt think the town has enough surplus funds on its own for such a project.
"I’d have to look into it further," she said.
Rudolph Stempel, a one-time Berne town supervisor, wants to use his experience to represent the people of the town.
"I believe I can help the town because I’m versed in town government," Stempel said.
A Republican, Stempel, 76, has lived in Berne his whole life, except for a three-year stint in the Korean War. He owns and operates a saw mill, Rudys Rough Cut Lumber, in East Berne.
Stempel served one two-year term as supervisor in the 1980s and has run for supervisor, unsuccessfully, several times since then.
He said the current town board doesnt make its decisions based on what the people of the town want.
"I would rely on what the people want," Stempel said, "bring their ideas up forward."
On the hamlet rezoning, Stempel said, "I would think it’s up to the people how they want the town zoned. I think it should have been brought before the people themselves."
Stempel said he would have supported letting the people in the hamlet decide on the rezoning plan by vote.
On zoning in the rest of the town, Stempel said the same thing.
"I think it’s up to the people," he said.
On growth and preserving agriculture and open space, Stempel said, "I think it’s important to preserve the farmland. Whether you know it or not, we’re going to be out of food one day."
This can be done, he said, by lowering taxes.
"Lower the taxes so that the farmer can live," Stempel said.
On taxes, Stempel said he supports more careful spending. For example, he said, while the new transfer station is a good project, its too extravagant.
"Don’t go to such extremes," he said.
On the space crunch, Stempel said he supports building or buying a new town hall.
Landauer pleads guilty to second-degree manslaughter
Nicole Fay Barr
KNOX Justin T. Landauer pleaded guilty in county court Tuesday to second-degree manslaughter and driving while intoxicated, after a June crash killed a Binghamton professor, Gary Lehmann.
Landauer, 27, of 417 Beebe Road, Knox, now faces 28 months to seven years in prison for the felony manslaughter charge. He may also have to pay a fine for driving while intoxicated.
He will be sentenced on Dec. 13, by Judge Stephen W. Herrick.
"We’re pleased with the outcome of this," Richard Arthur, a spokesman for the Albany County District Attorney, told The Enterprise. "We share the victims’ concerns that the laws pertaining to the prosecution of drunk driving need to be strengthened."
Lehmann, a professor of mechanical engineering at the State University of New York at Binghamton, was on his way to join his wife and three young children for a 10th anniversary party when he was killed.
"He didn’t have a chance," Albany County Sheriff James Campbell said earlier of the 47-year-old.
The accident happened on June 23. Police said earlier that, after consuming a significant amount of alcohol, Landauer, driving a pickup truck, sped across the center line on Route 443 in Knox, and collided head-on with Lehmanns car.
Landauers father, the former Knox highway superintendent, is running again for the post in this years election.
[Return to Home Page]