When I see a problem, I set out to solve it

To the Editor:

My name is Dotty Verch and I am running for Westerlo town supervisor. For the last several months, I have been going door to door, introducing myself. The purpose of this letter is to introduce myself to those that I haven’t reached yet.

In 1970, my family moved to Westerlo. (Wow, almost 50 years ago!) We built a house on Smith’s Corners just barely in the town of Westerlo. Like most of you, I was going to work in Albany, coming home, mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, paying bills, and spending time with my kids. In the summer, I would pile the kids — mine and the neighbor kids (seven altogether) — into a Volkswagen bug and take them down to Brown’s Hole to swim.

I didn't have time to pay attention to how the town was being managed, nor did I care. That's probably like everyone reading this letter. Most of us just wanted to live our lives, feel safe, enjoy our families. That's normal.

In 1973, we bought some property and moved about a mile away. We opened up a boarding kennel — Von Verick Kennels; some of you might remember it. We ran it from 1975 to 1985 until my husband's lighting showroom — The Lighting Place — demanded more attention. Closed the kennel, sold the business, and concentrated on The Lighting Place.

In 1997, we were watching TV: boring. I remembered that there was a town board meeting and we decided to see how our town was being governed.

At that time, the town hall was in the town garage. When we walked in, we found rows of empty seats and the town board sitting at a long table. The meeting was being directed by the town attorney.

We sat in the middle of the front row, with pad and pencil in hand. As we listened to the happenings, there were no agendas, probably because nobody attended these town board meetings.

As the meeting drew to a close, Mr. [Richard] Rapp, the supervisor, asked what we were doing there. We said that we just wanted to see how the town board conducted business. From then on in, we tried to attend each meeting.

Fast forward to 2005-06. The town acquired the current town hall location. A group of us got together and formed the Community Activities Committee. We had great fun putting on a Halloween maze and haunted path. (I was the Jack-in-the-Box and my husband was the mad surgeon.)

We had the Christmas-tree lighting with Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus and a Chinese auction. I think the function that was the most enjoyable was Breakfast with the Easter Bunny. We sponsored the Hilltowns Players a couple of times.

In 2012, Tony Sherman was elected to the town board which left the chair of the planning board vacant. Mr. Rapp (Dick) asked me if I would be interested in an appointment to the planning board, with town board approval. I said sure, and have chaired the planning board ever since.

Once I took that position, Tony handed me the first attempt at the comprehensive plan that the planning board had submitted to Albany County. The county had returned it and said that it had to be “fleshed out.”

I was scared and unsure of how to proceed. Went to Dick and asked if we could get some assistance from a consultant because all of the plans that we reviewed were drafted/crafted by professionals. Dick said that there was no extra money and said, “I'm not worried, you will do a good job, I have faith in you.”

The planning board consists of me and four very dedicated and committed men: Ned Stevens, Gerry Boone, Doyle Shaver, and Rich Kurlyo. Well, we rolled up our sleeves and attacked the job. In 2014, we presented the town with its first comprehensive plan.

About the same time, the town board was going to approve another 15-year franchise agreement with Mid-Hudson Cable. I had asked Dick in advance if I could review it and he said yes.

He was very supportive, and I felt confident moving forward. As it came to a vote, I asked the board to hold off on approval because the old agreement had nothing in it that benefited the residents of the town.

In the old agreement, there had to be 35 houses per mile in order to get cable. The only places you might find 35 houses per mile are the hamlets of Westerlo and South Westerlo. The rest of us, not a prayer.

What prompted me to question the franchise agreement? Riding past the library after it had closed to find a number of cars sitting outside the library for an hour or so. Why? Because both the Greenville Central Schools and Berne-Knox-Westerlo gave assignments to the kids that must be completed online and they didn’t have access to the internet where they lived. Unacceptable.

Back into Dick’s office, I asked if I could form a research committee to revamp and rewrite the franchise agreement. He told me to bring it up at the town board meeting. So I did and, with Dick’s support, the town board authorized the formation of the Broadband Research Committee.

Four very talented men from the town stepped forward to work on this project with me: Bob Wilcox, Mike Sikule, Leonard Laub, and Eric Markson. All dedicated and committed to providing the town with the best possible franchise agreement.

After many meetings with Mid-Hudson and several emails back and forth with the New York State Public Service Commission, we had a draft of a viable and worthwhile agreement that benefits the town’s residents as well as Mid-Hudson. We presented the new agreement to the board and it was quickly approved, authorized by Dick and Mr. Fingar of Mid-Hudson.

It obligates Mid-Hudson to serve far more of Westerlo than the company ever did before, and many residents are already enjoying their new high-speed internet service.

During this timeframe, I uncovered the fact that Mid-Hudson was not sending Westerlo the full franchise fee amount required by the franchise agreement. You see, Westerlo has five ZIP codes, not just 12193. The town was getting the fees only from service to residents of the 12193 ZIP code but not from service to Westerlo residents in the Greenville, East Berne, Medusa, and Hannacroix ZIPs.

When I pressed Mid-Hudson about this, it sent the town an additional $3,000, which now appears to be a small fraction of what it should have been paying over the last 15 years. Under continuing pressure from me, Mid-Hudson had to revamp its entire billing system, and will hopefully now be sending the town the accurate amount of money.

Running a business as I did makes me look at agreements and budgets differently. Working in the business world for so many years and running my own business taught me to create a budget by looking at spending (getting the best possible deal for your money), saving (finding ways to invest and earn interest on funds that might be just sitting dormant in non-interest-bearing accounts), and finding ways to increase revenue.

I have lived in Westerlo longer than in my hometown. Many of you were lucky enough to be born here; we chose to live here. I love Westerlo and want to find and put into practice ways to preserve the Westerlo we all enjoy while keeping taxes low for everyone including the seniors (whoops, I have been told that that is not politically correct, I should say “mature”) residents. It’s a balancing act.

I’m a business woman and long-time Westerlo resident looking to be your town supervisor. I want to live and enjoy my family and friends in a safe and comfortable community. When I see a problem, I consider options and set out to solve it.

I am asking every Westerlo resident to vote for me on Nov. 5. 

Dotty Verch


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