To the average passerby, the field on the corner of Park Street and state Route 30 in the village of Fonda is a seasonal parking lot used during the Fonda Fair.
But to the village’s new mayor, Kimberly Flander, the six acres of vacant land represents an opportunity.
Since her election in March, Flander started exploring various aspects of her lifelong hometown and realized the park, donated to the village in 1926 by the late Bert and Margaret Brower, is under-used.
“I think over time people have forgotten what a wonderful thing that was,” Flander said of the donation.
Flander intends to encourage residents and organizations to consider holding more functions at the park, and plans to have a schedule to identify days available for events when school sporting events and practices are not under way.
Another goal, which Flander considers a quality-of-life issue, is increasing opportunities for arts and entertainment to bring more people out. Such functions help boost pride and they would likely make Fonda a place where the youth, including her children, would want to stay.
“I want to see them come back and raise their family here,” Flander said.
Increasing opportunities for community gatherings is one of Flander’s goals, but she said she recognizes several challenges the village needs to address, one being the need for the planning required to get grant funding.
Officials learned recently that an application for a grant to redevelop 12 properties on the village’s east end was rejected by the state.
Flander said she believes the village will have a better chance at landing grants if a village planning board is established, so she intends to start calling on residents in the village, representatives of businesses, churches and other organizations to consider joining a new planning board once it’s established.
Once a planning board is in place, the group can review the village’s needs, prioritize them, and then map out plans before submitting a request with the input of village residents, she said.
“Everything has to go in stages,” Flander said.
Facades along Main Street, the historic Old County Courthouse and other sites in Fonda are all assets Flander said can be supported with grant funding. Revenue is difficult to come by, she said.
Fonda, like other municipalities, is facing cost increases for fuel and garbage collection, heightening the need to increase revenues, Flander said.
The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors’ recent decision not to move county office buildings out of the village was a close call in Flander’s eyes because county employees provide a major contribution to the local economy. Flander said she used to be one of those employees, and she recalls doing banking, shopping and getting meals in the village.
“I don’t want to see the county leave here. I really don’t,” Flander said.
Flander said she wants to bring more public input into decisions, and said she is asking people she meets, as she did during her campaign, to come up with ideas and share them.
Robert Galusha, a village trustee since 2001, said he sees a lot of energy in the new mayor.
“I think she has got a lot of ambition. From what she’s showed me, she’s going to do fine,” Galusha said. “She wants to learn everything she can. It’s going to take a while but we’re going to help her.
“With the enthusiasm she has shown, she’ll learn this process pretty quickly. She’s been busy, she’s down [at the village office] every day,” Galusha said.
Flander’s predecessor Rodney Simonds, village mayor since 2001, decided not to run for re-election this year.
“I just think it was time for me to get out and to turn it over to somebody else,” Simonds said.
Simonds said he said he plans to focus his energy as a member of the Fonda-Fultonville school district’s board of education and said he’s confident Flander will serve the village well.
“I’m sure she’s going to do a fine job,” Simonds said.
Bringing in grant funding and drawing business are two difficult challenges that represent long-standing goals in Fonda, Simonds said.
“I think [Flander is] aware of that and she’s working towards those goals,” Simonds said.