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What you need to know for 01/16/2017

Rotterdam ballot short on contested races

Rotterdam ballot short on contested races

When it comes to the ballot for local races in Rotterdam, town voters won’t find too many choices.

When it comes to the ballot for local races in Rotterdam, town voters won’t find too many choices.

The seven town offices up for grabs this year garnered a total of 10 candidates. And that’s because four of the races — including the one for town supervisor — aren’t contested at all.

Unless an unlikely write-in campaign is waged, Democrats will walk away with no less than three elected positions, including the town’s top executive. Supervisor Harry Buffardi, Receiver of Taxes Dawn Pasquariello and Town Clerk Diane Marco — all incumbents — are unopposed for re-election.

Who’s who

Kristie Hanson

OFFICE SOUGHT: Town Board

AGE: 52

BALLOT LINES: Democratic, Conservative, Independence, Working Families

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: Graduated Iona College, South Texas College of Law; owns law firm on Altamont Avenue

FAMILY: Three sons

Richard Larmour

OFFICE SOUGHT: Town Board

AGE: 56

BALLOT LINES: Republican

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: Hudson Valley Community College, Schenectady County Community College, retired U.S. Army, owns disc jockey business and works for the state Office of Mental Health’s finance department

FAMILY: Single father, one son

Joe Villano

OFFICE SOUGHT: Town Board

AGE: 35

BALLOT LINES: Republican, Independence

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: Siena College, Albany Law School, private law practice

FAMILY: Married with a son and daughter

Nicola DiLeva

OFFICE SOUGHT: Town Board

AGE: 52

BALLOT LINES: Conservative, Democratic, Working Families

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: College of St. Rose, principal at Martin Luther King Magnet School in Schenectady

Larry Lamora

OFFICE SOUGHT: Highway superintendent

AGE: 51

BALLOT LINES: Republican, Conservative

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: Schalmont High School graduate, operates Lamora Equipment Repair

FAMILY: One daughter

James Longo

OFFICE SOUGHT: Highway superintendent

AGE: 58

BALLOT LINES: Democratic,

Independence, Working Families

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: 38 years at the Rotterdam Highway Department, 10 years as superintendent

FAMILY: Single with two sons and a daughter

Longtime Town Justice Ken Litz, a Republican, is cross-endorsed by the Democrats and also has three minor party lines. He isn’t facing a challenge unless a write-in campaign materializes.

The only contested races are for two Town Board seats and the highway superintendent’s position. The candidates running aren’t exactly strangers to the ballot in Rotterdam.

Kristine Hanson, a Republican running for Town Board on the Democratic ticket, is one of two new candidates to surface in the local races this year. Richard Larmour, the Republican-endorsed candidate for Town Board, is the other.

Nicola DiLeva, a Conservative running on the Democratic ticket, has served on the board since being appointed to fill out the remaining term of Democrat Matt Martin, who left for the county Legislature earlier this year; she was also elected to a partial term on the board in 2009. Republican Joe Villano is making his second run for the Town Board after an unsuccessful run in 2009.

Also joining the Republican ticket is Larry Lamora, who is taking another run at highway superintendent after losing a 2011 run. He’ll face one-time Republican James Longo, the incumbent who enrolled as a Democrat shortly after being re-elected in 2011.

Several contentious issues have riled town residents as the election approaches.

The proposed elimination of the town paramedics — advance life support technicians paid for through the Rotterdam Police Department’s budget — has stirred ire among some who fear their elimination could put residents at risk.

The looming elimination of the paramedics in the 2014 budget has spurred fears the town will contract with Mohawk Ambulance, a private ambulance company, rather than Rotterdam Emergency Medical Services Inc., the not-for-profit agency that has served the town for years. REMS has agreed to adopt the town’s paramedic service, provided its soon-to-expire contract with the town is renewed.

Buffardi’s budget also boosts the town’s annual water rate from $25 to $75 and implements a yearly $50 fee for yard waste collection. Along with these service cuts and fee increases, he proposed raises for a number of elected and appointed town officials.

Villano believes the fee hikes and service cuts are a result of an administration that has failed to cut costs and continues to raid the town’s reserve funds. He said the increase in fees are basically tax hikes covering increases in spending in other areas of the budget.

Villano pointed to the increased salaries for non-union workers, including several who are running for office this year. He also highlighted the growing size of the $6.7 million police budget, where spending is up more than $900,000 and now takes about 90 percent of the general fund’s tax levy.

“It’s completely out of control,” he said. “People are getting taxed out of the town.”

Villano believes a combined emergency medical service that doesn’t require taxpayer dollars is the best of both worlds. He said REMS has come a long way since its insolvent days and sees no reason why the town shouldn’t renew the company’s contract, especially if it includes the paramedic service.

“I don’t know how anybody could be adverse to that,” he said, “This is a not-for-profit everybody should be getting behind.”

Hanson, who is changing her enrollment to Democrat, hasn’t formed an opinion on the future of the town’s emergency medical services. But she believes the process through which a provider is chosen should be transparent and should include input from residents and bidding.

“I think it should be an open book,” she said. “Everybody has got to give some type of in-depth proposal for what they want to do.”

Hanson said the fee increases proposed by the Buffardi administration seem in line with what is demanded by the services they support. For instance, she said the proposed increase to the water rates will bring in needed revenue to start upgrading Rotterdam’s aging infrastructure.

“Everybody’s complaining, but we’re paying a lot of money out of the budget to these companies to fix water main breaks,” she said.

DiLeva also didn’t take issue with paying a little extra to supplement the cost of water infrastructure or yard waste pickup. In the case of the yard waste fee, she said residents who don’t want to pay for the service or who haul their bags to the town’s compost facility can opt out of the fee.

“To me, it’s a win-win situation,” she said.

And while she hasn’t formed an opinion on whether to fund the town’s paramedics, DiLeva said she backs REMS’ recent proposal to take over the service. She stressed that no decision has been made on the paramedics, but said REMS getting the service seems to make sense.

“If they can afford to take over the service, I’d love to have them get it,” she said.

Larmour said the town’s spending practices prompted him to run for office. Like Villano, he singled out the police budget for driving the tax rate, suggesting the law enforcement careers of Buffardi and Deputy Supervisor Wayne Calder — retired Schenectady County sheriff and Rotterdam police deputy chief, respectively — play a role in the department’s ballooning expenses.

Though crediting the work of the Rotterdam police, Larmour said the town can no longer afford the department, which now has a number of six-figure salaries. He suggested the town explore options like some other communities, which rely on state police and county sheriff’s patrols to provide protection.

“We can’t afford it,” he said. “Our town of Rotterdam doesn’t have [the money], so what we need to do is look for an alternative.”

Larmour favors keeping the town’s emergency medical services as is. And he believes raising the water rates as drastically as proposed is unrealistic.

“If they wanted to give it a small hike, I would have been all right with that,” he said. “But to triple it in one shot is wrong.”

In the highway superintendent race, Lamora said he’d be a “hands on” leader in the department who would repair morale and improve responsiveness. He also believes the department could continue its yard waste service without placing a fee on residents by better scheduling pickups.

“Let’s go out when we can get full truckloads and it’s needed more,” he said.

Longo, who is running for his sixth term, touted his experience dealing with a number of challenging issues — from the tropical storms of 2011 to the tornado that touched down last summer. He defended the new fee as a way to cover some of the estimated $1.1 million cost of the service.

“For less than a dollar a week, it’s well worth it for the pickup,” he said.

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