2017 Rensselaerville election: Marion Cooke for council

Marion Cooke

RENSSELAERVILLE — Marion Cooke, a member of the Conservative Party, has served on the town board for eight years and is making her third run on the Republican line.

What she is most proud of during her tenure on the board is the town’s sound financial condition.

“A lot of it is due to our supervisor, Valerie Lounsbury,” she said. Lounsbury is not seeking re-election.

Cooke noted, when she first was elected to the board, the state audit named a number of serious problems. “Now we’ve got an excellent report from the state. Everyone has been diligent making sure vouchers are in line,” she said.

A grandmother of two and a great-grandmother of five, Cooke, who is 64, has lived in Rensselaerville her entire life. She grew up on a dairy farm and has watched most of the large farms that defined the landscape of her childhood disappear.  Her father sold his 272-acre dairy farm in 1964 for “peanuts,” she said. There had been four “major farms” on Route 358 when she was growing up, Cooke said.

If she is elected to another term, one of Cooke’s goals is to get cell service for Preston Hollow and Medusa. “It’s pretty non-existent there,” she said.

She is also eager to see what comes out of the state-required shared-services plan for Albany County that Rensselaerville agreed to. “We lost our ambulance this year, so we have to save as much as we can in other areas,” said Cooke. Since there weren’t enough volunteers to staff the town’s rescue squad, those services are now going to be provided by the county at a cost.

“My biggest concern is volunteerism,” said Cooke. “We saw what happened with the ambulance. I’m worried about the fire company going the same way.”

She went on, “Our zoning board of appeals and planning board [members] are all volunteers We’ve been very fortunate.” But she said, parents of young families often have to work two jobs. “There’s no time for volunteerism … It’s going to be a major issue. The young people aren’t staying in town anymore.

“Another thing — the raising of children has changed. Parents now are busy keeping their kids involved in sports.” She contrasted that with her generation, “We always had a farm. You knew what you were doing after school.”

On the budget, Cooke said it is wise for the town board to pass a resolution ahead in case it has to go over the tax cap. She doesn’t think the town is sacrificing needed items to meet the tax-levy limit.

“We budget each year for capital improvements,” she said, noting, for example, a fund has been set up for the purchase of highway equipment. Computer software is updated, she said. “And this year, we put in a generator,” said Cooke, noting that had been a long-time goal.

Much of this was possible, she said, because the county sales-tax revenues, divided among municipalities according to population, “had been going up.” She added, “Now, this year, they’re going down.”

On revaluation, Cooke said, “The assessors know that better … I’ve heard both sides.” She also said, “Our equalization rate has dropped down.” A large stumbling block to revaluation, Cooke said is “the money it will cost to do it.”

She concluded, “It’s a matter of dollars.”

On the local economy, Cooke said, “We have a lot of niche farming. Most of them can’t survive on it,” she said of small operations. “We only have one dairy farm left … Niche farms are doing well to supplement people’s incomes. And some are making a living off of it.”

Cooke noted that, after “the zoning sat stagnant for years, we updated it last year and kept agricultural stuff in there.”

She concluded, “I don’t think you’ll ever see big farming back here.”

On the imminent closure of the Rapp Road landfill, Cooke said, “Sharing a new landfill probably should have gone into the county shared-services plan. It should be a county initiative,” she said of creating a new landfill.

Cooke went on to say, with the tight deadlines on the shared-services plan, “There wasn’t enough time to work on it. It kind of jumped down our throats.”

Cooke commended the town’s recycling coordinator, Jon Whitbeck, on doing a good job. “Most people abide by it. He tells us each month how much we save from recycling,” she said.

On affordable housing, Cooke said, “I understand the plight of young families today. Their wages don’t match what you need to afford a house.”

She went on, “I can’t think of any place in Rensselaerville you could convert to low-income housing. It would have to be new construction. Route 145 is the only place for new construction and that’s in a flood area.”

On the opioid crisis, Cooke said, “I commend the parents for getting their kids involved in activities like sports and out of the drug situation.”

She has a granddaughter who “got involved in drugs,” Cooke said. “It’s a nightmare.” The girl’s mother was “right on top of it” and “got her in rehab,” Cooke said. “She’s doing good now.”

She went on, “It’s a battle.” Cooke attended last month’s forum on heroin addiction, hosted by Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple.

“It’s a problem in the Hilltowns,” Cooke said. “Like Sheriff Apple said, you’re not going to arrest yourself out of it. It takes education and you have to start it young.”

Cooke said she’d like the sheriff to host a similar forum in the Hilltowns.

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