On March 13, The Current hosted a forum between the two candidates for Cold Spring mayor, as well as the four candidates for the village board. The questions posed by reporters Michael Turton and Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong and the candidates’ responses below have been edited for space. The polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, March 21, at the firehouse on Main Street.
On asking residents for a tax increase greater than the tax cap
Merandy: It’s possible to raise taxes that way but it would require a public referendum for approval. It may have to be considered at some point … but for this year indications are that the village can stay within the cap.”
Anthoine: It is certainly a last resort. You’d have to make a strong case to increase taxes above the cap.
On Main Street parking meters
Anthoine: It’s something to be considered. I’m on record as saying we should have explored that before putting them in the lot on Fair St. We’re one of the few Main Streets with no meters. It would be a significant inconvenience to our community but would certainly generate revenue.
Merandy: The Comprehensive Plan lists three phases: establish the municipal parking lot meter, now complete; create the parking district for residents’ parking, being implemented by the Parking Committee and third, consider metering on Main St. One of the problems is that we have residents living on Main. Where would they park?
On reducing the cost of the police department
Merandy: An option used elsewhere is to have two 10-hour shifts with four hours overnight not covered. I’m not in favor of disbanding our police force and bringing in the Sheriff’s Department or state police. We have tourists, a Main Street, businesses. It’s totally a different animal than Nelsonville and Philipstown. We’d be paying higher salaries and benefits for sheriff’s deputies or state troopers.
Anthoine: I need to study this. I’m familiar with the budget in round numbers but not in detail. We should explore all opportunities to save money. We need police coverage that does not adversely affect the safety and quality of life we have now.
On the cost of employee benefits
Anthoine: The whole country is dealing with rising costs. I’d approach it in a respectful and dignified fashion with all our employees. Benefits and salaries continue to rise and we’re going to have to pay them. It doesn’t make sense to limit ourselves to hiring those who don’t need benefits. I want to talk to other villages of our size to find out how they deal with this.
Merandy: Village employees pay 7 percent toward their health insurance. In the private sector, we’d love to pay 7 percent. We’re looking at increased contributions for new hires. Also, retired employees pay nothing. The highway crew chief retired at 55 and we’re paying for a premium full-family package of up to $27,000 annually for the next 10 years. Employees missed a raise last year. It won’t happen again but a lot of people in this day and age have not gotten raises.
On managing tourism
Merandy: If the state parks can’t control the number of people, I don’t see how we can control that part of tourism. The cruise boats generate income for us but are also detrimental to quality of life. Restaurants can’t handle the number of people. We reached a tipping point last year. It was chaos on some weekends. It has to be slowed down but I’m not sure how. A vibrant Main Street is something we all want but not to the extent that you can’t even enjoy your own village. There is no Fjord Trail yet and the problem is already here.
Anthoine: We have to address reality and look for ways to get ahead of this. We have to demand funds at the Fjord Trail planning table. Garbage is overflowing; bathrooms are a problem yet we can’t burden our own taxpayers. We can’t just say we have to stop the tourists. We have to reach out to county government. As president of the Cold Spring Area Chamber of Commerce I was able to get funds there.
On the village’s role in supporting Main Street businesses
Anthoine: Owners should be given better information about the steps involved in opening a new business – building dept., planning board, parking issues. There’s nothing codified for parking waiver fees. There are ways of making this a simpler more transparent process.
Merandy: Consolidating building dept’s with Philipstown will give better service. The code is there; waivers are calculated, not random. We’re responsible for ensuring the safety of people coming to our village. The promotional end should be the Chamber’s job – not the village board. Many merchants go the extra step such as doing tree beds. Others are not willing to make improvements and feel it’s the obligation of the village board and I don’t agree with that.
On lawsuits and hiring practices
Merandy: The claims about the lawsuits aren’t true. We have one lawsuit with residents of Nelsonville over a sewer line and there is a motion to dismiss. There have been notices of claim including one with Butterfield and one with an employee but no actions taken. I feel these are frivolous lawsuits and am confident they’ll be thrown out. I’m comfortable with how we do our hires. We do everything we’re required to do legally. In business people don’t always get the boss they want. You hire the best person for that job; we have to refrain from just throwing out information on personnel. I’d love to bring some of these issues out into the open but we’re following our attorney by not commenting.
Anthoine: I only know from rumors because nothing is disclosed. Whatever the hiring decisions are there’s a way to conduct them in such a way that you’re mindful of the existing employees. That’s very important to provide the respect to current employees.
On the trustees’ portion of the Forum
Anthoine: I love the idea of village hall meetings. Not just to reach consensus but to increase the level of community engagement. A focused discussion could lead to consensus — or get closer to it.
Merandy: The claims that we’re anywhere near being bankrupt and the fear that it places in people is kind of Trumpian to me. There is absolutely no fact in that. Miss Schatzle should prove we’re bankrupt. We have a very solid fund balance. We are in fine fiscal shape.
Anthoine: I have the leadership skills to be mayor demonstrated by five years on Chamber board including as president. Three years on the zoning board. Nearly 40 years as a lawyer and entrepreneur. I’m an active bridge builder eager to work with people across the economic and political spectrum. I want to use my skills and experience to increase revenue and deal with tourism while preserving the character and safety of the village.
Merandy: I was elected to the school board for 10 years, Philipstown board for three years and mayor for two years. I’ve put in a lot of time for our community because this area is incredibly unique and I’m fortunate to be living here. I want work to keep what is unique about the village. I have the experience, worked countless hours worked with many boards. I have history here. We have to work with what residents actually want. I hope people will look at my track record.
Video by Gregory Gunder