On Tuesday, two-time incumbent Mayor William Peeler will face challenger Danny Boy McLaughlin Sr. for mayorship of the village.
All village elections scheduled for March, April, May, and June were postponed until Sept. 15 by an executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While Peeler and McLaughlin are both Republicans, village elections in New York state do not include major party affiliations on the ballot.
Peeler said he’s running for another four-year term in order to finish projects he started during his first two terms, including approximately $8 million worth of infrastructure projects, including a waterfront redevelopment project.
“Without me there, it really will not happen,” Peeler said. “That’s the biggest issue I have with [my opponent], which is he not fully understanding or grasping what it takes to run a municipality.”
McLaughlin, a married father of five who works as a real estate broker for Coldwell Banker’s Arlene M. Sitterly, said he’s running for mayor to give back to the community. He said he ran for village Trustee in the past, but was defeated by a write-in candidate he believes was backed by Peeler.
“The main thing I really want to tackle is beautification of the area,” he said. “Fonda has kind of come downhill when it comes to that. Another issue would be recreation, getting that water project done down by the river.”
Peeler appointed McLaughlin to a village steering committee that was looking at a proposed village comprehensive plan.
“There was a grant that came in to put in a dock and a boat launch and a bathroom and like a parking area,” McLaughlin said. “We were looking at a comprehensive plan to put in an RV Park and [make other some improvements to] the park there, put in some charcoal grills, stuff like that. As far as that project goes, it’s been at a standstill. The plan was created, and the last meeting that happened was in January 2017, and we haven’t heard anything about it since.”
Peeler said he hopes to complete adoption of the village comprehensive plan by the end of September. He said one of the hold-ups for the plan has been the zoning changes that would need to be enacted, but he said he’s committed to getting it done before the end of the year, in part due to his concern that he might be defeated by McLaughlin.
“We’re going to have to adopt it as written, and then do the zoning, because it is taking too long, and, if I’m not in office after these elections I want to make sure it’s carried through,” he said.
McLaughlin has taken shots at Peeler in the form of news releases and social media posts. He has accused Peeler of spending most of his time in Florida and not the village of Fonda
“As a result, the village suffers every year,” McLaughlin wrote in a news release.
Peeler, who is the owner of a personal security firm called Peeler Group International, said he owns multiple homes in Fonda as well as Florida, but he denies that he spends most of the year in Florida. He said 2020 has been an unusual year for him in that he did spend a large part of the year quarantined in his home in Florida due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I had to separate myself from the people I worked in my company, and make sure I was not in the same location as my deputy mayor,” he said. “This year has been a little bit different, but [normally] when I go to Florida I fly back and forth all the time, and I can tell you during 8 years of meetings I think I’ve missed 3.”
McLaughlin also feels that Peeler hasn’t done enough to reduce tractor-trailer traffic in Fonda, and has promoted development that would increase it.
Peeler said he favored a Thruway bypass into Fulton County that would have substantially reduced truck traffic, but Montgomery County and the Town of Mohawk opposed it.
“I want to reduce truck traffic, and I’ve lived here my entire life and my family home is on one of those truck routes,” he said. “He needs to understand how the system works. There was federal money granted to [study the bypass idea] and the county and town both spoke against it. I didn’t hear a peep from him during that process, but anyhow, the powers that be didn’t want it to happen.”
McLaughlin said Peeler has stymied his efforts to hang safety signs in the town, which he believes is an abuse of power.
“In March, I purchased and hung up 100 ‘Children and Pets at Play’ signs,” he wrote in a news release. “I posted these signs on a Friday and on Monday morning Mayor Peeler had the maintenance department take them down.”
McLaughlin said he was told by village officials that the signs were removed for insurance reasons, but he said other mayors in the local area have told him that the state wants to eliminate that kind of sign, but those signs can go up despite state opposition if local governments tell the state they want the signs.
“The Mayor didn’t want an [effected] change from his opponent, again abuse of power,” wrote McLaughlin.
Peeler disputes McLaughlin’s account of the sign controversy.
“There is something that, if he does become mayor, he needs to learn very quickly — there are so many regulations, so many state laws that you have to follow,” he said. “Talk about an abuse of power, he put up directional signs in a municipality without the authorization of the governing body, which is a violation of New York state law, and I didn’t know for sure it was him. I heard it was him, but I wasn’t sure it was him. I didn’t order them taken down — yes, ultimately everything comes from me — but when this was brought before the board of trustees they voted on it and said ‘yes, they needed to be removed.’ It wasn’t NYSDOT that they were worried about it, it was insurance companies, because, even though it’s public streets and right-of-ways, we are ultimately liable if we do something inappropriate.”
McLaughlin also takes aim at Peeler’s appointment of Stan Waddle as the code enforcement officer for the village. He said he thinks Waddle has caused a lot of upset people in the village, including himself. He said he believes Peeler and Waddle have conspired to punish him for running for office against Peeler.
“I can give you an example, one of the reasons I personally can’t receive a “temporary certificate of occupancy”, for a two family I restored is quote unquote, ‘The refrigerator must be level’,” McLaughlin wrote in his news release. “I was told by the code enforcer that he treats everyone at the same level. So, this is either [Peeler] instructing the code enforcer to stop my progress, due to political advantage or the code enforcer being unreasonable in his requests.”
Peeler said Waddle is very knowledgeable in terms of New York state’s rules and the rules of the village. He said if McLaughlin is upset over how he’s been treated, he doesn’t understand why he’s never filed a formal written complaint about the issue. Peeler said he has had conversations with some village residents about Waddle, but he feels some of the pushback against the code enforcement officer is due to the fact that the village had no code enforcement officer for a period of time due to the death of the previous one. He said he’s working with Waddle.
“I want to make sure that we have safe structures in our community, but I also want to make sure he’s seeing what other people are seeing,” he said. “There’s state laws that need following — and I don’t necessarily agree with all of them — but they’re state laws.”