Kevin Crosier and William Keal, Berne supervisor candidates
BERNE — The two repeat candidates to lead Berne — Republican William Keal and Democrat Kevin Crosier — have differences on whether the town should allow fracking and on how business should be encouraged, but they agree the town should have no problem meeting the state-set tax cap.
When Crosier didn’t seek a third term, he said he wanted to spend more time with his family. His relatives knew he wanted to get back in, he said, when he agreed to step in for the third year of resigning Supervisor George Gebe's term in 2012.
Crosier, 55, ran on the Conservative, Independence Party, and Democratic lines in November 2012 to best Keal by a wide margin in a town where Democrats greatly outnumber Republicans, although Crosier was also successful running on the GOP line in previous elections.
Crosier, a Berne native and retired firefighter, won the Conservative line in September, this time decided by a primary, and has Democratic and Independence Party endorsement. He said he joined the local Democratic committee in August.
Keal, 54, grew up in Wappinger Falls, near Poughkeepsie, and moved to Berne five years ago to be in his daughter’s school district.
Currently an agent for CM Fox Real Estate, Keal said he has been a salesman all his life. He worked as an aviation electronics technician in the United States Navy and sold musical instruments in his father’s John Keal Music Company. He worked as a door-to-door salesman for Time Warner Cable before working in real estate.
Crosier told The Enterprise he has received many calls by offended residents who had read a post by Keal on the Facebook page, “The Happenings in the town of Berne NY,” which Keal maintains.
The post, which is no longer up, was made in May after the school budget vote when, according to Facebook.com, the page had its most active week. The Enterprise obtained a screenshot of the post from Crosier that showed a picture of a parade with the words, “All flags, no fags.” Then, in capital letters, “Monday Memorial Day here in Berne!”
“How could you lead a community? How could you tell people you want to have an economy when you would slur a certain group of people?” Crosier asked.
Keal told The Enterprise he was referring to gay pride parades.
“Everybody is welcome in the parades, but there tends not to be the San Francisco fanfare out in Berne, and that’s pretty much what I was saying,” said Keal. When asked whether the post was describing this as positive or negative, Keal said, “It doesn’t necessarily have to be a positive thing or a negative thing; it’s just a reality.”
A post on The Happenings in the Town of Berne page acknowledged in September that it was not the official page of the town after Berne Town Board members had discussed residents’ confusion during their August meeting.
If he wins another four years, Crosier said he would like to see the town allow for more small-scale and low-impact businesses as the board decides on updates to its decades-old zoning regulations.
Keal believes residents would like to have another gas station, or a bank, among other small businesses.
“In larger cities, they have business development and they’ll give tax incentives to businesses that will locate there,” said Keal. “Well, maybe that’s something we need to do.”
As supervisor, Keal said he would like to investigate the possibility of installing a municipal water system, a walking path from the area of the Fox Creek Market to the town park, and ways of expanding high-speed Internet and cell-phone coverage in the town.
The town board is awaiting a recommendation by the planning board on hydraulic fracturing. A report has already been prepared for the town by a special committee. Crosier has said he is opposed to the natural gas drilling process in Berne, because he is not willing to put its water sources at risk.
“There’s generations of people who are tied to the land. I am not about to risk generations of people for some corporate greed,” said Crosier.
Keal isn’t ruling it out.
“I’m not opposed to it, if it worked out that fracking was made legal in New York State, and there’s an area where they want to do fracking in Berne. We would have to cross that bridge when we get there,” said Keal.
Crosier said other opportunities for low-impact, mom-and-pop businesses should be developed for the town instead. He said he first became involved in town government when he was trying to start his own syrup business from an old abandoned barn.
“I think we have to have a mechanism in place for that to happen or for us to be able to look at it,” said Crosier, using the Adirondacks as an example of rural character matched with business opportunity. “We can’t be narrowly focused, that you can’t have a business unless it’s in a little cluster.”
Keal said he was motivated to run again this year because he is increasingly concerned that Crosier would again pursue a plan with the county to consolidate with the Berne Highway Department, as he did in 2006.
“If he gets in for another four years, I do believe there is that strong possibility that he’ll try to make that move again,” said Keal. To support the claim, Keal cited the Democratic candidacy of a county Department of Public Works employee, Scott Duncan, for highway superintendent this year.
Duncan told The Enterprise he is not interested in consolidation, if he were to win the Berne election, and incumbents said this week they are not discussing the idea with the county. Duncan was put forward by Democrats after the current highway superintendent, Kenneth Weaver, declined the Democratic nomination since, he claims, a promise was broken to preserve his health insurance rates after retirement. Duncan and Weaver both say they are open to shared services, as opposed to consolidation.
For stormwater management projects in the next four years, Keal said such ideas should be developed with the highway superintendent, who could then present a plan for the town board.
“I looked at the paperwork of what I saw as the budget, there wasn’t enough clarity and conciseness for one to be able to say there’s too much expenditure here, or too much expenditure there,” Keal said of the 2014 tentative spending plan. “So, I just can’t criticize the budget.”
Keal said maintaining the town’s roads are a priority. Both candidates believe the town can still operate efficiently under the state-set cap on levy increases.
Crosier defended the town’s large fund balance, or rainy-day savings, when the comptroller’s audit criticized it in 2009 and still says the town is better off with it.
“Last year, I don’t believe we used any of the fund balance,” said Crosier. “So the fund balance is in there as a cushion because we do such a good job of doing the town budget that we never get to spend any of that money.”
Crosier said much of the work the town can do to mitigate flood hazards is inexpensive widening of ditches, laying boulders, installing larger culverts, and planting vegetation.
Keal said he wants to show his support for people who called for a resolution from the town board in favor of repealing the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act.
“I think we should revisit that and make it a strong piece of legislation that says we absolutely want to repeal the SAFE Act,” said Keal.
“I’ve lived here my whole life, I’ve owned guns, I hunt. I understand,” said Crosier. “I think the SAFE Act doesn’t make us any safer.” Crosier said he likes parts of the law but objected to the process of passing it, noting that the town invited representatives to hold a public hearing on the law in the school.