MILTON -- Republican voters will select candidates for town supervisor and two Town Board seats in the town of Milton on Tuesday.
One-term incumbent town Supervisor Scott Ostrander is facing a challenge from Town Board member Benny Zlotnick. The two have clashed over the town budget and the town's negotiations to acquire the former Camp Boyhaven Boy Scout camp.
Zlotnick is running in a team with Town Board candidates Barbara Kerr, an incumbent who lost the town Republican Committee's backing, and Ryan Isachsen. Isachsen, however, is running as a write-in candidate, having missed the deadline for filing nominating petitions.
The Town Board candidates endorsed by the committee are Megan Soden, chairwoman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, and Antonio Bianchi, a state legislative aide and great-grandson of the late Schenectady mayor Frank Duci.
Ostrander, 52, is a retired Ballston Spa police officer, though he continued to work part-time for the village police. He said he's done a lot to straighten out town finances in his first two years in office. "I was told I was coming into a hot mess, and yes, I did come into a hot mess," he said at a League of Women Voters candidate forum last Friday at the Milton Community Center.
Ostrander said he's improved the budget process and managed to achieve a cut in town water rates last fall. "In 2019, we have a sound and sustainable budget," he said.
Zlotnick, 59, a materials tester for Polyset in Mechanicville, has been on the Town Board for four years. Before that, he served on the town Planning Board. Like Kerr, he was an incumbent who was denied endorsement by the Republican Committee after frequently clashing with Ostrander and the Town Board majority, particularly on budget issues.
He said his priorities if elected would be to preserve the town's rural character, keep residents better informed about town business, and improve the budget process. "We're a $7 million business and you are the shareholders," Zlotnick said, referring to town residents.
Zlotnick said he's been concerned about overdevelopment in town for 40 years, and he's been strongly in favor of the town buying Camp Boyhaven -- a $1 million deal that ultimately fell through last year after the Twin Rivers Boy Scout Council became frustrated with inaction by the town. He believes that the town could ultimately have broken even or made money buying and reselling the most forested Boyhaven land to the state.
The 300-acre camp was bought by town resident John Munter, who has said he wants to preserve the property and has negotiated about selling it to the state and some private camp operators.
Ostrander said he had "voted for Boyhaven from the inception," but didn't think the town should invest $1 million in the purchase. At one point, there was an offer of a $500,000 anonymous donation, and Ostrander was among those who questioned the source of that money.
The candidates agreed that the town needs to preserve rural western sections, even as suburban-style development has continued in the eastern part of town, closer to Ballston Spa and Saratoga Springs.
"I think it's very important to protect our rural areas west of Middle Line Road," Zlotnick said.
Ostrander also said he wants to keep the western part of the town rural
Ostrander said he's trying to make Town Board meetings less contentious. "I see more transparency, everyone getting along better, no arguing," he said. "The one thing I have learned is that you cannot do it alone."
Among the Town Board candidates, Soden and Bianchi are aligned with Ostrander, and Kerr and Isachsen with Zlotnick.
Kerr, who has been on the Town Board for eight years and also had to fight for the Republican nomination in 2015, said she brings wisdom and maturity to the board. She is retired from Skidmore College. "I listen to the residents and vote in their interests," she said. "I have been and will be the independent voice on the Town Board."
Isachsen works for Aspira Connect as a technical account manager. He said his priorities would be improving the budget process, increasing transparency, and securing additional green space, especially Boyhaven, if possible. "I'm a lifelong resident who is looking to preserve a way of life for me and for my children," he said.
Soden is raising two children and volunteering but has a business background. She said she'd like to see more business diversity in the town center, especially a restaurant -- something most candidates said they'd like to see. "I want to listen to, understand and respond to all the residents," Soden said.
Bianchi, who at age 21 is the youngest candidate in the race, said he is for fiscally conservative budgeting and responsible development.
With Milton being a heavily Republican town, the outcome is Tuesday's primary could decide who gets elected in November. Ostrander, Soden and Bianchi have been endorsed by the Conservative and Independence parties, but they face write-in challenges in those primaries.
Milton polling places will be open from noon to 9 p.m.