The quest that Sean Lyons and I are on is to return Peter Pan and the Lost Boys to reality

To the Editor:

Lies, Mr. Supervisor?

How about we set the record straight?  The palm card lists an agenda that demands:

— A. Referendums for major purchases, like the Game Farm and the salt shed, so they must be brought to the voters for approval.

— B. Pursuing small businesses to provide goods and services and increased revenue to offset the levy on property owners.

— C. Lower taxes, through fiscal self control.  Just because the funds are available does not give the board the right to blow them on their legacy.  It’s the people’s money.

— D. The end of political patronage, where Democrats get the jobs and lower assessments.

The other side of the card declares that “we will be the voice” of the people of Berne and put the people in charge.  Lies?  Really?

Your letter brags that “Berne is in its best financial shape in history,” but our town pays more in taxes than other Hilltowns.  How much lower could our taxes be if not for the board’s accomplishments?

Four years of property tax reductions means too much is being squeezed out of the taxpayers’ pockets, so the board has a duty to cut taxes instead of squandering the money.  How about just taking what is needed to run the town without accumulating surpluses?

New infrastructure — the highway department does the roads on an ongoing basis, without the participation of the board.  The new bridge was a state project.  Then there’s the sewer.  

Three million dollars spent to serve a handful of homes in the hamlet because a couple had defective septic systems, which should have been remediated for thousands.  And then the new system froze up during its first winter.  The grinder pumps had to thaw and the highway garage was used to let the frozen wastes ooze out into the floor drains...

If they’re so concerned with accomplishments, why, when the roads and properties were torn up, didn’t the board take an offer to tap the aquifer on his property to provide town water?  Much of the funding for this boondoggle came from state and federal coffers, which amounts to hands dipping into our other pockets.

The new parkland with a lodge, which requires rehabilitation estimated at over $100,000, is a money pit.  The facilities will require heat, electricity, and ongoing maintenance.  The highway department will be hard pressed to keep the roads usable.

It could have added tax money to the town coffer, but it now has to compete with more than 5,000 acres of state parks and preserves that surround the property to generate the revenues they dream about.  

The quest that Sean Lyons and I are on is to return Peter Pan and the Lost Boys to reality.  One only has to attend the board meetings to see that they are conducted as though they are in Never Never Land.

An issue is discussed and a motion is called for.  One of the board offers the motion and it is seconded.  Every one is passed unanimously, like bobble-head dolls, nodding in unison.  In fact, when board member Bonnie Conklin had the courage to abstain from voting on the budget in 2013, it was noted in a story in The Altamont Enterprise.

This campaign is not about accomplishments, but about how our town is being managed and the fact that we need to bring a new perspective to Berne’s governing body.  As we travel to the corners of the town, Sean and I hear that people don’t think that everything is wonderful. 

Topping the list is taxes that are too high.  One voter complained that their taxes have doubled over the last 10 years.

Look at all of the “For Sale” signs that have popped up, like mushrooms in a cow pasture, to see how many folks just want to leave Berne.  The truth is evident if you are reality based.

There’s something very wrong when people pledge you their vote but won’t put your sign on their lawn for fear of retaliation. That’s not our negative view; that’s fact

Want some more?  How about permitting the installation of a cell-phone transmitter/receiver in a 40-foot-high church steeple adjacent to the BKW school?  Could have been on a 150-foot tower, to provide more separation from the children.  Should have been atop the ridge, where the new tower will be installed, to serve south of Route 443, instead of the hamlet and Knox.  What leadership?  

How about how the board allowed Time Warner Cable to abrogate their agreement to build out the broadband cable network by 10 percent each year until the service was available to all of the residents?  Why wasn’t that pursued, so the town wouldn’t have to pay part of the hook-up fees for a dozen homes in East Berne that the supervisor promised and the board approved?  

Sean Lyons has lived here all his life and knows many people who completely agree with our assessment that Berne’s leaders are pointed in the wrong direction.  I’m the new kid on the block, with 10 years’ experience of life in the Hilltowns.

My wife and I chose Berne after looking all across the country for a suitable farm and people to spend our golden years with.  I draw on 25 years in the Fire Department of New York’s Communications Bureau, with 10 years as a supervisor and the last two years, before I retired, as a borough supervisor in charge of Staten Island.

There I learned how to deal with politicians, bureaucrats, the media, contractors, the public, and, on occasion, angry mobs, so serving on the board will pose no insurmountable obstacles.

Our residents are offended, but it’s by the Democrats, who are elected to represent the people, that offend the voters by ignoring their needs or directions.  The voters want to know what’s happening in the town of Berne, before it happens, not after the choices are made and the documents signed.  

The choices are clear — on Election Day we will be glad to receive the votes of everyone who has had enough of these shenanigans and is ready for people who support their concerns.

Rick Otto


Editor’s note: See related profiles.

The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation required Berne to build a sewage plant since septic systems were leaking effluent into the Fox Creek. Supervisor Kevin Crosier denied the Game Farm Road property needs such extensive repair as $100,000, a figure, Rick Otto said, came from contractors who walked through. The town’s contract with Time Warner Cable has expired since it and the town could not come to an agreement on the number of homes per cable mile, according to Crosier. The projects that extend cable to organized groups of residents, with input from the town, the residents, and Time Warner Cable, use funds that come to the town through a franchise fee; it’s not taxpayer money. Also, on patronage allegations, Crosier noted that Otto had been appointed to the zoning board.

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