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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 6, 2011

Bonnie Conklin

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — Bonnie Conklin, 41, is a lifelong Berne resident who works at Berne-Knox-Westerlo as a prevention coordinator for St. Catherine’s Center for Children, and has been doing so for 10 years. Conklin told The Enterprise this week that her desire to run for office grew out of her experience of working with children.

“I just see a great need up here for more services for children and families,” Conklin said. “We need more social services up here — counseling, respite services for children.”

She hopes to one day start a community center up on the Hill, she went on, proposing the old Grange Hall as a possible site.

“There’s nothing really up here on the Hill for kids to do, and there are transportation issues up here,” said Conklin, who is running on the GOP line. “I want to have more youth involvement going on, and get more services, mental heath services. I’d like to help out in that way.”

Her mother, Linda Carman, is a member of the Hilltown Seniors, and Conklin stands by her mother in her efforts to bring senior housing to the area.

“I’m definitely an advocate for that,” she said. “Living up here all my life, it’s very difficult to send people down below the Hill and to a nursing home, and know that’s where they’re going to live the rest of their lives. A lot of us want to stay here. We don’t want to go elsewhere to end our lives.”

Conklin thinks she is a good listener, and that this makes her a strong candidate, she said.

“I hear people saying, ‘I wish we had Stewart’s up here again,’” said Conklin. “I’m all for that, and I’m all for having small businesses up here, and more revenue for the community. I think it was a few years ago that Stewart’s said, ‘Hey, we’re not feeling safe up here,’ because there was a small number of people who didn’t want it.”

When asked about the new statewide tax cap, Conklin said that the first cuts should be made in the pay for town officials.

“I’m not saying highway department, but some other town officials,” Conklin said. “The highway department, and equipment, and employment are so needed up here.”

She went on to say that she thinks paying town taxes has been manageable.

“I think the town of Berne has good taxes so far,” said Conklin. “That’s why I keep saying, if we had something like Stewart’s, or more revenue up here, that would he much more helpful I think.”

Conklin went on to say that she is opposed to hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, in town, at least until she learns more about it.

“Honestly, if it’s going to affect the drinking water, then definitely not,” she said of hydrofracking in town. “We need to do research, and forming a committee sounds like what should be happening. The planning board wants this to get on the town board agenda. If it’s happening on a county level, we don’t want to be forgotten. So, yes, it needs to be on our agenda.”

She supports the use of wind power in Berne on a smaller, residential scale, but opposes the construction of an industrial wind farm in town.

“As a nation, I think we need to utilize our natural resources,” Conklin said. “But, would I want something like that in my backyard or field? No, I would not. I put myself in other people’s shoes, if it was my property and they were going to put in a wind turbine farm, I’d be against that, but I’m for it nationally.”

She thinks the town needs regulations of its own, and she hopes the planning board continues its work in this area.

Further, she does not have a particular individual in mind for Gebe’s replacement as supervisor, she went on.

“When they come to committee selection, I’d like to see it be bipartisan,” said Conklin. “That’s an issue I have. I don’t have any issues with Peter Vance being supervisor; I think he’s worked very hard. I really think, in George Gebe’s case, family comes first; people have to realize that, especially in that type of position.”

Conklin strongly supports the development of the town’s first sewer district.

“I go walking, and you’ve got to hop over the puddles that smell,” she said. “That’s ridiculous. Everyone hates to spend money, but I’d spend it for that cause.”

And, she sees the sewer project as a necessity for bringing senior housing into town.

“In my yard, when my grandchildren are over, the first thing we say is, ‘Don’t go playing in the stream, because Grandma and Grandpa don’t know what’s in that water,’” said Conklin. “That’s a horrible thing to say to a 3-year-old. When I grew up in Berne, we played everywhere. We got muddy, and we got wet. But I have to caution them now, and it stinks growing up in the country and saying, ‘Don’t play there because Grandma and Grandpa aren’t sure what’s in the water.’”

Were she elected to the town board, Conklin would be willing to help with management of the sewer project if she could, though she admits to not having the experience necessary.

“Here I am, a teacher, a mom, a grandma, and I don’t know much about sewers,” she said. “So, if one of my colleagues who had more knowledge wanted to take it over, I’d give in to that reasoning. But, if I learned more about it, and I could have the help of the other councilpersons, I’d say, ‘Yes.’”

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