SARANAC LAKE - The town of Harrietstown board is guaranteed to have at least one new member among the field of three candidates running for a pair of four-year seats Tuesday.
Ron Keough is the only incumbent in the race. He's held his current seat since 2001 and is running on the Republican and Conservative party lines. Looking to join the board are former deputy town clerk Patty Meagher, who also has Republican and Conservative party backing, and retired state Department of Corrections employee Ed Goetz, who is running under the Democrat and Unity party banners.
The candidates are presented here in alphabetical order by last name.
Goetz, 63, served a six-year term on the Saranac Lake school board in the 1980s. He ran unsuccessfully for town justice in 2011 as a Republican. Goetz said he changed his party affiliation to Democrat last year for "personal" reasons that he preferred not to talk about.
Goetz retired in 2007 after a 25-year career with DOCS. He also worked for Franklin County for seven years, during which time he helped launch the county Youth Bureau and served as its director.
"I'm not here to reinvent the wheel," Goetz told the Enterprise this week when asked why he's running for town board. "I think they're doing a nice job with the budget, but I think there's some areas that need to be looked at and maybe changed."
One of those areas, Goetz said, is the town-run Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear, the expense of which he said is too much for Harrietstown taxpayers to bear on their own.
"I just think there should be better participation by the surrounding communities," he said. "I think you have to present your case to them as to what it brings into their economies as far as local tax dollars. It's substantial."
Goetz said the town's business park in Lake Clear, which currently has just two businesses, is a "very viable and usable" area, but it needs to be marketed better. When asked if he'd support spending taxpayer money to do that, Goetz said it would depend on the cost "so we make sure we get the bang for the dollar we're going to put out there."
Asked about the debate over the Remsen-Lake Placid railroad corridor, Goetz said he doesn't think the state taxpayer money spent to maintain the railroad tracks over the years has been a worthwhile investment.
"I know what (the Adirondack Scenic Railroad) is claiming in ridership, but does it pay for itself? I don't think it does."
The plan to convert the corridor into a multi-use recreational trail is "probably more feasible at this point in time," Goetz said.
Goetz also said in-fighting between the town and the village has prevented the two governments from working together more cooperatively, something he said he'd like to improve upon.
"I'm going to be available all the time for the people, and I want to give them a voice on the town board that's probably a little louder than what they're getting now," he said. "That's not a shot at the people that are currently there, but there's sometimes I don't think the decisions are made based upon what the taxpayers will benefit from. The decisions have to be based on that first, before need."
In addition to his most recent 12-year stint, Keough served another 18 years on the town board, including 10 years as supervisor, in the 1970s and 1980s. He's also been a Franklin County coroner for 51 years. He was the owner of Keough & Son Funeral Home for 34 years and is now associated with Fortune-Keough Funeral Home.
"I love being a councilman," Keough said. "I don't have all the daily things that the supervisor, as administrator, has to do, but I can still be effective."
Asked why he's seeking re-election, Keough, 77, cited his knowledge of and experience with local government.
"I've never been a yes man," he said. "I've never been in anybody's pocket. There have been a number of times on the town board, especially in the last 12 years, when I've been the only 'no' vote. And I'm not bashful about bringing up things that are not popular issues."
If he wins re-election, Keough said there are several things he'd like to keep working on, such as building a new lodge and expanding trails at Dewey Mountain Recreation Center, replacing the retaining wall behind the town hall and advancing a major repair plan for the building. He also said he wants to increase the use of the town hall as a place for meetings and events.
Asked about the airport, Keough said public meetings the town hosted on the facility last year were a "huge step" in raising awareness of its value.
"Has that generated additional revenue from other governments? No. Is there a better working relationship and understanding with those governments? Yes."
The town's tax levy has been a moving target over the last four years. It dropped 2.2 percent in 2009 before increasing 13 percent in 2010, 4.3 percent in 2011 and 9.1 percent last year. Some of the big spikes have been due to fluctuations in fuel sales at the airport. Asked if there's a way for the town to stabilize the levy, Keough called it "a work in progress.
"There's a continuous monitoring of economics and the budget at the airport," he said. "Across the town, we're watching what happens every month and every week and making sure our department heads stay within the constraints of their budgets."
At the business park, Keough said he's creating a package of information that could be provided to prospective tenants. He also said he's eager to help a current business park tenant, Bionique Testing Laboratories, with its plans to expand and add new jobs.
Keough voted with the rest of the board last month to ask the state to remove the railroad tracks and replace them with a multi-use recreational corridor.
"Looking at the cost that they're talking about to redo the rails, and what the return would be as opposed to other utilization, was a big motivating thing on my part," Keough said. "It would have been nice to have (rails-with-trails), but I don't think, given today's economy, that's realistic."
Meagher, 62, recently retired after working for the town for 12 years as its deputy clerk, court clerk and deputy tax collector. She's never run for elected office before.
"I'm retired and have some time to do some things that are interesting to me aside from raising a family and working every day," she said. "I'm interested in what's going on in the town and how things are being handled."
Meagher said the airport has "taken a front seat" for the town board while other areas that need to be addressed have been overlooked.
"There's repairs to the (town hall) building that probably should have been done a long time before now, and now they're a more critical issue," she said. "My focus is to put more emphasis on the entire town rather than just one area."
Meagher said she doesn't want to see the airport closed, but she questioned some of the projects the board has planned for the facility. She cited a plan for a general aviation terminal, which the town has now abandoned, calling it a "terrible idea for the taxpayers and something we didn't need."
Although she didn't see any major issues with the town's budget, Meagher questioned a $20,000 expenditure in next year's proposed budget to add another management position at the airport. Instead of hiring a new employee, the town should promote from within, she said.
Getting more businesses into the town's business park is a "tough sell" because of the remoteness of the site and the lack of water and sewer infrastructure, Meagher said. She said she'd only support spending money to recruit businesses to the park if the cost is reasonable.
"I'm not opposed to promoting it or marketing it, but right now I think it would be on a limited basis," she said.
Meagher said she doesn't want to see the railroad tracks removed and would support a plan for rails with trails in areas of the corridor where it's feasible. She's also worried that if the rails are removed the corridor could revert to "forever wild" and be off limits to snowmobiles.
Meagher said she thinks she'd work well with other members of the board. She described herself as someone who would "question things.
"Not that they don't do that now, but I will be one who questions things and not just vote without knowing what I'm voting on," she said. "I'm open minded, and I think I can get along with any of them."
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.