Three vie for two Lake Placid trustee seats
LAKE PLACID – Voters will have three choices for two open seats on the village Board of Trustees when they head to the polls Tuesday.
Art Devlin, Dave Jones and Scott Monroe are vying for four-year trustee terms. Devlin and Jones are running as a team with Mayor Craig Randall, who is unopposed in his re-election bid. Bill Hulshoff is running unopposed for another term as village justice.
The Enterprise interviewed the three trustee candidates this week and asked each the same questions. Their responses have, in some cases, been edited for length.
Enterprise: Why are you running?
Devlin: For the exact same reasons I ran four years ago. Lake Placid has been very good to me. I’m at a point in my life where I can give back, and that’s what I want to do. The only difference now, running four years later, is I have that much more experience from four years on the board, and I want to put that to good use.
Jones: I’m running because the mayor and Art Devlin asked me to run with them as a team, and I felt very honored. Lake Placid has been my hometown all my life – born and raised here. … It’s strictly love of community. The only reason why I’d even consider running is my love of Lake Placid.
Monroe: My main reason for running is I don’t agree with the concept of three people running together as a team. I believe the board should consist of five independent individuals with their own individual views, thoughts, concepts – and they bring those to the table and the five of them work together as a group.
Enterprise: Why should someone vote for you?
Monroe: Any issues that come up, I’m going to investigate myself, educate myself on that issue, and I’m going to make the best decision that I think is in the best interest of the people of the village of Lake Placid. I’m not necessarily going to do it because another board member wants to – it’s going to be my own independent view as to what I think is right for the village. I don’t think that’s necessarily being done at this time because there is always a unanimous vote on just about everything. I’m not hearing other viewpoints coming out on the board.
Devlin: Four years ago we were asked to come into office and run because they did not like what they saw and the directions the village was going in. We ran as a party of three, and the village put a lot of trust in us. I feel we have done everything they have asked of us, and I feel we’ve come through with flying colors. … I feel there are many pressing issues that will continue to go on in the village and will continue to go on for years to come. I feel that we want to continue doing what we did for the last four years.
Jones: I think experience matters. I do have a 22-year history with running the village. I served under all six mayors since Bob Peacock. I do have a history: I can recollect things, what other boards have done and avenues to pursue. I’m an honest man. I’m transparent.
Enterprise: What are the biggest issues the village faces in the next four years?
Jones: The toughest thing is to maintain services and keep the taxes down underneath the 2 percent tax cap. That’s a challenge in any government, at any level, statewide. The 2 percent tax cap is very difficult, especially when salaries generally increase every year, health insurance costs are increasing, assessments are going down – so it’s a very difficult thing. I think the current board has done a tremendous job keeping those taxes underneath the 2 percent tax cap.
Monroe: One issue is always taxes: to try to keep them in check and not to raise them. The trunk line sewer project is something that’s obviously going to affect the taxes. Parking is always an issue. But I would say that taxes is the one main thing. The village needs to keep those intact by creatively going through the budget, finding things and redoing them and trying to find revenue. Or, worst-case scenario, you may have to find things that you may have to cut.
Devlin: We need to look for ways to make the village more efficient and continue to ensure that tax dollars are spent wisely, provide reasonable wages and benefits for our skilled village employees, continue to keep our infrastructure up, continue to search for answers to traffic flow in the village and parking concerns, continue to find ways to maintain village services while remaining under the 2 percent tax cap, and finish the trunk sewer line.
Enterprise: Is the village doing a good job of keeping taxes down while keeping up with infrastructure projects and other needed expenditures, like equipment purchases? Will that be an issue going forward?
Devlin: Infrastructure was our biggest challenge coming into office. … The biggest concern was that our mandate obligations, our shrinking funds and our contractual obligations would eat up our entire budget. We had to do something or we wouldn’t keep our infrastructure up. If you look around, we finished the lift station on Station Street; our village parks, in conjunction with our service clubs, have been kept up; a new roof at the electric department; sandblasting and protecting the digester tanks at the sewer plant and making sure that plant is kept up – the minute you let things like that go, it becomes replacement costs at triple or four times the cost of maintaining it.
Jones: I think the past board has kept up with the infrastructure repairs. I know many streets have been repaved. … I think the village does maintain its infrastructure fairly well – as best as can be expected, I think, under the constraints of the tax cap. There are many things that we’d like to see. We’d like to see a parking garage, but can we afford it? I don’t think so right now. They’re continually working on upgrading lift stations for the sewer. … We do maintain our streets and the infrastructure fairly well.
Monroe: From some of the research to date, I don’t think it’s going to be an issue in the future because the village has had surplus budgets for the last four years. … That money that’s left over has been going into the fund balance, and the fund balance is extremely healthy right now. I’d like to see some of that money go back to the taxpayers.
Enterprise: If you could spearhead an initiative for the village, what would it be and why?
Monroe: It would be nice if the village had a policy – I know other municipalities have done it – where they will say that if they have a surplus year, a percentage goes back to the taxpayers and another percentage goes to the fund balance. It would be nice if you got that in place – through a resolution, a policy or a local law – from that point on, every other board would have to follow that. … There would be some protection in place for the taxpayers that if the village did a good job of not spending money and if we had a surplus, we could give back.
Devlin: If you look at the rising cost of health care, the rising cost of retirement, the lack of funding for these things – I think all of that, if you get into where are we going in the next four years, all of those things are important to focus on. … We’ve spent four years working on those weak links, and I think we’re there. I think we need to be diligent not to let something become a weak link.
Jones: Parking was always an issue. … It’s going to be near and dear this summer come beach-going time because of the new hotel around Mirror Lake. I know (Art) Lussi has promised a certain number of spots in that hotel parking lot, but I don’t think it’s near enough for what the beach attracts. It’s going to be very difficult to find parking. I think the one thing that I’d spearhead is maybe a solution to that parking problem around the beach.
Enterprise: This week is Sunshine Week, which focuses on open government. How would you grade the village’s transparency?
Jones: The transparency has been pretty good. The village has developed its website, they’re on Facebook, they’re on Twitter. … The mayor’s reports are available on the website, the meetings are posted on the website and on Facebook. Transparency is good. It could always be better, and there could always be more public participation, but you can’t drag the people out of their homes to come to your meetings.
Monroe: I think the village is doing better than it ever did. But I think there’s always room for improvement. You can only put so much information out there, but people still need to go look for it. They’ve hit all the social media aspects so people can find out what’s going on. I wish more people would go to the board meetings, but I know everybody has tight time schedules.
Devlin: Let’s throw this out as a grade, and let’s not use F through A. Let’s use “pass” or “fail.” I’d like to use the word “pass,” because I always think there’s room for improvement. I think we’ve learned a lot in the last four years and will continue to learn to grow in that area. Really, when you talk about transparency, how many people really come to our meetings? We developed a website. People can sit at home and go on the site and see what’s going on.
Enterprise: If the village board was weighing a difficult decision, how would you go about interacting with constituents in order to come up with a position?
Devlin: I’ve found that my experience growing up in the motel and being an owner for 21 years has been the perfect training ground for being in village government. … What do I do when there’s a need or a problem? There’s been very few times when the board wasn’t working in the same direction. One of those times was when they wanted parking for the Adirondack Community Church. We argued, everyone stated an opinion – it didn’t get us anywhere. That night I went home, talked to Pat Jorgensen, and all the arguing and disagreeing we did was for nothing because she said, ‘There’s no issue here.’ So yes, if there’s a problem we can’t solve, we go out and talk to these people and we work it through.
Jones: My door is always open. I would publish my cell phone number because I’m not always home. As far as social media goes, I do use Facebook. … I’m never bashful, and I’d always talk to anyone that would want to talk about any kind of issue.
Monroe: I started a Facebook page, and if elected that would be one of the tools I’d use to encourage people to use if they had an opinion. … My phone: Call me any time you want. It’s hard for a board member to do what’s in the best interest of the village if the people aren’t really telling them what they want. How are you going to make a good decision if you don’t know what the people really want? Some people just aren’t vocal. I’m in the community all day long. I see a lot of people, so it will be pretty easy for people to talk to me on the street. Getting people to talk to you and share their views is a challenge, and I hope that people do start speaking up.
Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.