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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 6, 2011

Berne elections
No incumbents as four run for two board seats

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — Two town councilmen are retiring at the end of this year, paving the way for a four-way race for the two open seats this November. And, there is a three-way race for two assessor posts.

James Hamilton, nearing the end of his second four-year term on the town board, and Peter Vance, who would have finished his first four-year term this year, both said that they plan to spend more time with their families once their terms expire. The town board is now composed entirely of Democrats, in a town where Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 3 to 1.

But Vance resigned last Wednesday and was appointed as acting supervisor, following George Gebe’s announcing his retirement; Gebe was just short of being halfway through his first four-year term as supervisor. He, like Hamilton and Vance, said that he was leaving office for reasons relating to his family.

The town board also announced last week that it plans to form a committee to search for a replacement for Vance, and that replacement will serve as supervisor through 2012. There will be a special election next November to determine who will finish out Gebe’s term in 2013, and there will then be a regular election for the next four-year term.

Vance told The Enterprise this week that the committee’s formation and selection process could extend beyond the end of the year, meaning that his term as acting supervisor would, too.

“I am very concerned that the process of having the committee up there is a good process,” Vance said. “That doesn’t mean the result might not be controversial, but I’m very concerned it be deliberate and well balanced.”

He added, “My major concern is that the committee is representative of the community, and that people feel the process was a good process, because, no matter who gets appointed, someone will be unhappy. It’s one thing to be unhappy with the result, but I’d prefer that people agree that the process was legitimate, and the committee was diligent in trying to find the best candidate.”

The candidates

Four candidates vie for the two open town board seats.

Running on the Republican line are Bonnie Conklin, a prevention coordinator for St. Catherine’s Center for Children, and Kenneth Crawford, who was one of the last dairy farmers in Berne before retiring recently.

On the Democratic line are Dawn Jordan, a former music teacher and pharmacist, and Karen Schimmer, a teacher and librarian at the Albany Academy.

In the race for assessor, incumbent Democrats Brian Crawford and Christine Valachovic are running against Republican William Keal. Neither Crawford nor Valachovic returned phone calls for interviews this week.

Town board candidates answered questions about the following issues:

Tax cap: A bill was recently passed in New York State that caps tax-levy increases at 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less, starting in 2012. The cap can be surpassed if at least 60 percent of voters approve. Where would you make cuts in order to meet the 2 percent cap, or would you go to a public vote to override the cap?

Hydraulic fracturing: Neighboring Rensselaerville recently voted to form a committee that will research the pros and cons of hydraulic fracturing, much like it did with wind power. The Knox Planning Board has proposed changes in Knox’s zoning code to prevent hydrofracking. Are you for or against hydrofracking in town? Should this subject be on the town board’s agenda? Should the town research the subject and come up with its own legislation on the matter?

Wind power: Rensselaerville took about a year and a half to research wind power, and eventually drafted laws that regulate small-scale development, and ban larger-scale commercial development. Berne, itself, is working on its own regulations. What do you think about the use of wind power in town, on both larger and smaller scales? Does the town need to come up with its own regulations?

Supervisor: George Gebe recently resigned after two years as town supervisor, with two years remaining in his term. Peter Vance was appointed as acting supervisor, and the town board will put together a committee to search for a replacement, who will act as supervisor for the next year. There will then be a special election to determine who will finish out Gebe’s term in the following year, and there will then be a regular election for the next four-year term. Who should the town board place on this committee? Who should the new supervisor should be?

Sewer district: Do you support the development of the town’s first sewer district? Retiring Councilman Vance had taken charge of the sewer district during his time on the board, and reported to the board monthly on the state of the project. He has said that, as he leaves office, he will be working with Lamont Engineering to help them take over project management. If elected to the town board, do you see yourself taking on any role in the sewer project?

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