The choice in Harriman's village elections

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:57

    HARRIMAN-Village elections will be held Tuesday, March 15, for two trustee positions. Incumbents Bruce Chichester and Deputy Mayor Edward B. Shurt Jr. of the People's Choice Party are being challenged by Peter Licata, chairman of the Village Planning Board and a member of the Concerned Citizen's Party. Trustees are paid approximately $5,200 a year for the four-year term. Candidates do not run representing the standard political parties. Here's a rundown on the candidates, in alphabetical order, and their thoughts about the issues: Incumbent G. Bruce Chichester has lived in the village for 28 years and is married with three children. He has 12 years experience as a trustee and three years as mayor. He is a merchandizing manager and holds a college degree in accounting. He is or has been a member of Sewer District #1 Advisory Board, past Ethics Board member and the Southeast Orange County Traffic Study Committee. "Having served on the village board for a long time," Chichester said, "I watched the village become self-sufficient with village services and wish to continue the protection of the village." His reasons for continuing as a member of the village board include: • Development: He said there is not too much potential for development within the village due to the lack of much remaining open land. He supports the senior living facility proposed for the vicinity of the Route's 17 and 17M intersection. He has environmental and tax concerns that are associated with increases in village growth. "This is a full-service village and some tax increases are imposed by state mandates," he said. "We try to maintain quality services with minimum tax increases. We must do it right." • Grants: He states the board has been successful in acquiring grant money. For example, funds were received that enabled the purchase of new computers for the Village Clerk's office. • Municipal water: He is proud that there's hasn't been a rate increase in 10 years. • Recreation: He supports the concept of the Heritage Trail but claims this is an Orange County Park and the county "must take responsibility for environmental and liability issues concerning the park." Challenger Peter Licata has been a village resident since 1996 and is married with one child. He is a financial analyst specializing in budgets and planning for Medco Health Inc. He has been Planning Board chairman for three of his six years on the board. His reasons in running are: • Taxes: Licata said his business and budgetary background provides him with skills necessary to control taxes and village spending which he claims should be moderated. For example, he said "federal and state grant money is available that could be used to cover some village expenses" instead of exclusively relying on property taxes. • Traffic: He is concerned with excessive traffic using the village as a bypass route to enter Monroe such as River Road. "The traffic speeds through the village and needs to be slowed," he said. "Pedestrian safety is a concern." He said additional sidewalks and some intersection curbing could used as a strategy to slow the speeding vehicles. Roads in the village that are rated for a five-ton vehicle weight limit are being violated by overweight trucks. He sees a heavier increase in police enforcement of traffic laws also as a possible solution. • Development: "People have a right to develop their property but laws must be in place to regulate," he said. He also said that some of the village building code is obsolete and needs to be updated. "The Planning Board is limited," he added. "I want to participate in writing more strict laws; this must be done right." • Voter turnout: The last village election turnout equaled only 3 to 4 percent of the registered voters, according to Licata. He sees this as a very poor participation in community affairs and will try to stimulate more involvement through the creation of a village Web site, a quarterly village newsletter and improvement in the local village cable channel. • Recreation: He supports of an extension of the Heritage Trail to Harriman. Deputy Mayor Edward B. Shurt Jr. is a 26-year resident of the village and is married with one child. Shurt has eight years experience as a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals and five years as a trustee. He has been employed by Orange & Rockland Utilities Inc. for 34 years and is currently overhead line chief. A Vietnam combat veteran, he also is a member of the Orange & Rockland Utilities Ethics Council, Local IBEW 503 Executive Board and is chairman of the Harriman Historic Committee. He said her intends to maintain his cooperative work with the board for the betterment of Harriman. His reasons for continuing as a member of the village board: • Development: "Everything in the surrounding area affects the village - traffic, water runoff, parklands, etc. I wish to continue voicing my opinion with the surrounding municipalities" pertaining to their impact on the village. He and other board members are developing a floating zone to support senior housing in the village. • Taxes: He is concerned that "half of the last tax increase is due to state mandated increases in worker compensation, retirement and disability costs in addition to health insurance increases" for village employees. To moderate expenditures, he and the village board chose not to accept pay increases this year. • Recreation: On the Heritage Trail extension, "I am not opposed to the trail if it is in Harriman's best interest, but the impacts of parking, garbage cleanup, security and traffic must be addressed by the county." His goals for a new term include working toward building a new fire house that can accommodate the standard size apparatus in use today and to maintain the village water charges at their current rates.