Two Republicans who want to continue the work they started five years ago are being challenged in this year’s election by two Democrats who say they would bring some fresh ideas to the all-GOP Town Board.
“There’s nothing he’s put forward that’s gotten a no vote,” said Jared Hickey, a Democrat seeking election to one of two four-year seats, referring to Republican Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle. “That’s how new ideas get brought to light.”
“I really think, for the town of Glenville, there should be a good mix on the board, not just one voice,” said Heather Gray, a Democratic candidate. “But I think, in any area, that’s what people look for.”
Republican incumbent Gina Wierzbowski said the board doesn’t always agree and that members compromise during work sessions where no votes take place. But she said they all share the same vision for the town.
“We have had the same laser focus on this is where we’re going and haven’t wavered from that, and you can see the results,” she said.
Wierzbowski, who works as a full-time paramedic for Malta-Stillwater EMS, is running alongside Republican incumbent John Pytlovany, a retired village of Scotia police chief.
Should both Democrats win, the five-member board would still have a Republican majority. Alan Boulant, a Conservative endorsed by the Republican Party, is running unopposed in a special election to serve the last two year’s of Sid Ramotar’s term. In March, the board appointed Boulant to fill the post left vacant by the Republican Ramotar, who left to take a job with the U.S. Small Business Administration in Albany. Bouland served on the board as deputy supervisor from 2010 to 2013.
If elected, Hickey said he would slash Koetzle’s salary and make his job part-time. The town supervisor’s salary more than tripled, from $19,000 to $83,000, in late 2013 shortly after his re-election.
“The Town Board have been playing games with the budget and making decisions that are not going to advantage the town in the long run,” he said. “That includes his substantial pay raise” with limited public debate.
Wierzbowski defended the supervisor’s full-time status and pay, saying Koetzle has formed strong relationships with the state DOT and DEC and led the charge for economic development in town. She said a full-time CEO is needed to run an organization with a budget of $17 million that governs about 30,000 people.
“Why would you want to make that part-time?” she said.
Koetzle, who is not up for re-election until 2017, pointed to the town’s local government efficiency plan approved by the state last week. It saves an estimated $927,000 over the next three years including $19,874 annually from restructuring his office. The savings came from Director of Operations Jamie McFarland retiring and returning as part-time deputy supervisor and from eliminating Koetzle’s part-time secretary.
Hickey said he would use the savings from making Koetzle’s job part-time, about $60,000, to increase the size of the Police Department, which he said is down two officers. He estimated that officers make $45,000 per year, and said the $60,000 in savings could pay for 1.5 officers.
“I’d find a way to pay for it immediately,” he said.
Pytlovany agreed that the department is understaffed, but said staffing hasn’t been reduced since he joined the board five years ago. He also said each additional officer would cost the town about $100,000 a year once benefits and overtime are factored in, and said finding the funds is a tough proposition in the era of the state-imposed property tax cap. The town has stayed within the cap every year since it was implemented in 2011.
“Obviously, as a former chief, I would love to see more police officers in the town,” he said. “We just have to find either grants available or funding from the casino, or something, to be able to add those on.”
Town officials have pushed for Glenville to receive a share in the gaming revenue from a casino planned for Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady, saying the bordering town of Glenville’s roads and public safety will be affected. The city and county of Schenectady are due to receive a projected $4.1 million each.
Pytlovany said the casino will place an added burden on the town Police Department.
“The town is going to certainly feel the effects of the casino,” he said. “We haven’t given up on that.”
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The candidates will take part in a forum from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, Oct. 19 at the Glenville Municipal Center, 18 Glenridge Road. It’s sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Schenectady County and the American Association of University Women’s Schenectady branch.
Hickey also said he would work to attract more businesses in a way that maintains the character of the town, “not creating signage all along the major corridors here.”
“It’s that friendly atmosphere,” he said of the character. “It’s mom-and-pop shops.”
Gray, a Schenectady County assistant public defender, pointed to the high ropes course in West Glenville and the Amedore Homes 135-home subdivision connecting the Indian Hill and Glen Oaks neighborhoods, both of which drew concern from neighboring residents but were approved by the town earlier this year.
“Economic development is a great thing, but we just need a balance,” she said.
Pytlovany and Wierzbowski pointed to their record of helping the town grow over the last five years. Over the last five years, businesses like Target and Applebee’s opened on Route 50. The town’s parks have also been improved, they said. Sidewalks and lighting are being installed this year as part of the long-discussed Town Center project, and a riverfront hotel is planned for Freemans Bridge Road next to the Waters Edge Lighthouse Restaurant.
Wierzbowski said she would work to make sure more residential areas of Glenville, like neighborhoods north of Price Chopper on Route 50, aren’t hurt by future business development.
“I think our challenge is going to be making sure we do smart development, not just development at any cost,” she said.
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