Bartiss, Hamm win Franklin town board seats

A political newcomer and an incumbent won a pair of seats on the Franklin town board Tuesday.

Tom Bartiss, who owns a Loon Lake-based forestry business, was the top vote getter in the three-way race, collecting 250 votes. An independent, he was endorsed by the town’s Republican and Democratic caucuses.

Donald Hamm, who runs Whiteface Construction Corp., received 231 votes and won another term on the board. A registered Republican who received GOP and Democratic support, Hamm was first elected to the board four years ago.

Former town Supervisor Mary Ellen Keith came up short in her bid to return to the board, collecting 143 votes. She ran on the independent “I Care” party line.

Town Supervisor Art Willman congratulated Bartiss and Hamm on winning the seats.

“I’m very happy with the way it turned out,” he told the Enterprise this morning. “I think Tom will be a really fine addition to a board that’s worked well. We’re now a complete mixture. We have two Republicans, two Democrats and Tom is an independent. As far as partisanship, I think it really doesn’t exist. We’ve all been working for the last four years on what’s best for the taxpayer.”

There was no answer at Keith’s listed phone number this morning when the Enterprise called her for her reaction to the election results.

Willman, who’s a Republican, and town Republican Committee Chairman Ed Martin said they took issue with some of the claims Keith made in a campaign flyer she distributed to town residents, a copy of which she had also provided to the Enterprise. Among other things, Keith accused Martin and Willman of gathering in the kitchen of the Franklin Town Hall during the Democratic caucus, “coaching Democrat Party members to nominate Republicans to fill the slots.”

Martin said he wasn’t even in town the night of the Democratic caucus and called Keith’s accusation “a last-ditch effort” by her to try to win votes.

Keith had accused the current town board of neglecting the general fund and focusing too much on the highway fund. Willman said the highway department is run by Highway Superintendent Jacques DeMars and is largely out of the board’s control. He said the town has used its general fund to repair and improve its buildings, including the town hall and highway garage. Willman also said town has been working to create new athletic fields at Kate Mountain Park, which Keith had said was “in limbo.”

Martin refuted a claim by Keith that the town had mishandled Federal Emergency Management Agency funds it received to repair roads and culverts damaged in the spring 2011 flood.

“Every cent that comes from the state and federal government has to be accounted for,” Martin said. “They send out investigators to make sure the money’s being spent where it’s supposed to be spent.”