Philip Stevens, Berne town board candidate

Philip Stevens

BERNE — Having spent nearly his entire life in Berne, Philip Stevens says the town hasn’t been tough enough on its untidy properties.

“In a lot of places, people are cited,” said Stevens, who winters in the South. “In Florida, for instance, if your lawn gets too high or too messy, and they have to clean it up, they put an assessment on your taxes.”

Stevens, 76, was once chairman of the town’s Republican committee and is retired from a career of more than 30 years working as a bridge supervisor for the New York State Thruway Authority. The Republican candidate for town board currently serves on the board of assessment review. 

He was once president of the Berne Volunteer Fire Company and is a 50-year member of the Berne Conservation Club.

“The town is nothing like it was,” said Stevens who has lived in Berne most of his life. “The Democrats have been in power a long, long while. They just don’t seem to want to do anything. We have no businesses here.”

Stevens is Republican Councilwoman Bonnie Conklin’s uncle.

The majority of the town is not in favor of hydraulic fracturing, said Stevens. “Probably, around here is not the best area to do it,” said Stevens.

He thinks the town’s zoning regulations could allow for small businesses, but shouldn’t be open for big ones.

Stevens once ran Stevens Sportshop out of his home, selling bait, tackle, hunting supplies, and clothing. He criticized the town board for a lack of business in the town. Asked what he would do in the post, he said, “I would try.”

Asked whether his trips to Florida would make work on the board difficult, Stevens said, “Two weeks or even a month out at a time would not be a huge issue, because most everybody on the board misses meetings every once in a while.”

“You can always call another board member and see what’s happening,” he added.

Whether or not the money used in the budget is surplus, it still represents a cost, says Stevens.

“There should be an amount, definitely, for emergencies,” said Stevens.

Asked about stormwater management projects, Stevens said the upstream retaining walls in bridges are important to secure because they could be vulnerable to rushing water. He said the project to rebuild the downstream retaining wall after Tropical Storm Irene was “exceptional.”

Stevens said maintaining the town’s waterways “would take some doing” to get the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation to help.

“They do a very good job now,” Stevens said of the town highway department. “I’ve known many cases where they’ve shared bulldozers, they’ve shared backhoes.”

As a town board member, Stevens said, he would persist in seeking grant funds for town projects, like lighting or sidewalks in a hamlet.

“We have an awful, awful, bunch of very nice people in this town and they deserve better,” said Stevens.