Knox town board seats challenged, town clerk open

Poll workers on primary night in September look over final forms as they close the poll in the Knox town hall. Supervisor Michael Hammond lost the primary for the Independence Party line to Pamela Fenoff, an Independence Party member. The will face off in the upcoming election on Nov. 5.

KNOX — As the town’s comprehensive plan is being updated, and the public’s opinion is being surveyed on Knox’s future, two Republican candidates want to take the now all-Democratic town board in a different direction.

Longtime Democratic Supervisor Michael Hammond is being challenged by Pamela Fenoff, an Independence Party member, for a new two-year term. While Hammond is running on his record, Fenoff is advocating for change to the town’s service and accessibility.

Fenoff petitioned for and won a primary in September after the county Independence Party committee had backed Hammond.

In Knox, enrollment breaks down this way: 39 percent of registered voters are Democrats, 22 percent are Republicans, three percent are Conservatives, six percent are Independence Party members, 27 percent are not affiliated with a party, and 13 voters are enrolled in smaller parties.

Hammond was unopposed in 2009 and has been supervisor, the town’s chief fiscal officer, for 40 years.

The part-time supervisor post pays $16,700 per year.

Fenoff and Robert Altieri, both backed by the Republican Party, are political newcomers who were outspoken during a town meeting when a resolution was passed condemning the process by which the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act was passed.

Fenoff questioned the board when it voted to fill the position of a transfer-station alternate worker without advertising the position. A resolution was adopted in 2011 to post any vacant positions.

Town attorney John Dorfman told The Enterprise he will suggest at the November board meeting that such a position as the alternate worker ought to be posted.

“Until it is revoked or changed, the board should follow what the resolution says,” said Dorfman of any resolution.

The board was questioned by a resident again when the town’s assessor was re-appointed to a six-year term. The assessor’s position was not vacant as the current assessor had no plans to retire, and Dorfman said the resolution in question wouldn’t apply.

Altieri, a Republican, is running on the Conservative and GOP lines for a four-year term on the town board. Two positions are up for election this November, with the two Democratic incumbents, Nicholas Viscio and Amy Lauterbach Pokorny, running for re-election. The part-time position pays $3,825 per year in the part-time post.

For town judge, incumbent Jean Gagnon, a Democrat, is running unopposed for another four-year term. She makes $10,143 per year.

The town’s highway superintendent, Republican Gary Salisbury, is unopposed, as well, for another two-years. The salary for the full-time job is around $55,400.

Democrat Tara Murphy is running against Conservative Amanda Gullestad, as the town’s clerk. Both are new to town elections. The current clerk, Republican Kimberly Swain, said she is not seeking another term in order to spend more time with her children. The part-time position has a $12,600 salary.

For tax collector, Democrat Diane Champion is running unopposed for another two-year term. The part-time position pays $5,000 per year.

The Enterprise asked the supervisor and town board candidates about these issues:

— Business districts: Two areas in town have been proposed for business districts, anticipated in the town’s comprehensive plan and zoning law. After a public hearing, the town board sent the first proposal, in the hamlet, back to the planning board to consider expanding its size. The second recommendation was voted down at the planning board’s October meeting. Its boundaries covered an area along Route 146 near Lewis Road, and would have accommodated a towing business there that is otherwise illegal. Candidates were asked what the ideal outcome would be for business districts in the town.

Appointments: At its October meeting, the town board was questioned by residents when it voted to re-appoint the incumbent assessor for another six-year term without posting for the open position. The town board adopted a resolution in 2011 to post any vacant positions. Candidates were asked whether or not the town board should follow the resolution on posting for vacant positions.

Comprehensive plan: The town’s comprehensive plan was first suggested for review as the issue of hydraulic fracturing was considered. Last updated in 1996, the town’s guiding land-use document is being given a broader review and is in need of residents’ input, which will determine its content. Input has so far been gathered, from only a fraction of residents who responded to a survey. Candidates were asked whether the current plan is sufficient, and if input can be gathered by any other means.

SAFE Act: Like other Hilltowns, Knox passed a resolution in response to the state’s gun-control legislation; Knox, like Berne, requested more public input while Westerlo’s resolution called for repeal of the SAFE Act. At meetings, Knox residents turned out in force, and some of the candidates this year were outspoken on the issue. Candidates were asked whether Knox should take any further action than the resolution that passed.

Zoning and enforcement: The town board has been confronted by a resident claiming its zoning regulations have not been properly enforced, and a business owner whose request prompted a review of the business district proposal for Route 146 said she moved her towing business from Altamont to Knox because of the town’s more relaxed zoning enforcement. Candidates were asked what, if any, change to the town’s zoning law or its enforcement is necessary to balance these interests.

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