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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 15, 2011

Incumbents Vance and Hamilton bow out
Dems Jordan and Schimmer face off against
GOP’s Conklin and Crawford for two town board seats

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — Two town councilmen are retiring at the end of their terms, paving the way for a four-way race in November that will land two of the candidates on the board come January.

Peter Vance, nearing the end of his first four-year term on the town board, told The Enterprise this week that his wife’s imminent retirement contributed to his desire to step down from his post on the board.

“I hate to be selfish, but I’ll be 68 years old in December; I think my volunteer days are winding down,” Vance said. “I took on a lot of stuff when I retired, including the town board and sewer district, which was not something I signed up for, but something I inherited, and it’s been a lot of work, and a lot of time. When my wife retires, I guess we’d like to have some fun.”

Hamilton, too, plans to give more attention to his family life.

“I just went through what was probably the worst year of my life,” Hamilton said, noting a recent illness in the family. “I also got two new grandchildren this year, and I just want more time to spend with my family.”

These things have left him “feeling differently” about life, he went on.

“The town has a lot of things going on, and I feel badly about walking out now after eight years on the town board,” said Hamilton. “I’ve gained a lot of knowledge about municipal operations, but I need some time for myself.”

Running to fill their places on the Democratic line are Dawn Jordan and Karen Schimmer, both newcomers to politics. Should they win, the board will be made up entirely by Democrats, as it is now.

“They’re both involved very much with the town,” said Gerald O’Malley, chairman of the town’s Democratic Committee. “Dawn comes to all the board meetings, and is involved with lots of things in the town, and she was just a good choice for the position. Karen had been working on the comprehensive review board for the past few years, and she thinks she can help the town even more by being a candidate.”

They will be challenged by Republicans Bonnie Conklin, also a newcomer, and Kenneth Crawford, who ran for town board in 2009, but lost.

“I think we’ve got some very good candidates,” said Peggy Warner, chairwoman of the town’s GOP committee, “and they’re anxious to do a good job for the town.”

In addition to the race for town council, two assessors’ seats are open. Republican William Keal will run for one of those seats, though he will be challenged by two Democrats: Brian Crawford, currently the chairman of the assessors; and Christine Balachodic.

Councilman Hamilton said that, as the liaison between the town board and the senior and youth programs, he takes pride in his work towards relocating the town library, as well as “some of the re-zoning that was done in town, and the comprehensive plan, which we’re now looking at.” He also thinks that the town’s purchasing practices have improved during his time on the board.

Vance has been a liaison between the town board and the slowly forming sewer district, which will be the town’s first municipal system.

“I’m particularly disappointed that I wasn’t able to move the sewer district any further than I have,” Vance said. “I’ve really only had it for two years, but I’ve been totally responsible for it. Suffice it to say, there was a lot of stuff to do when I inherited it, and a lot of stuff has been done. We’re trying to work through the eminent domain process, which is not the neatest or nicest thing I’ve ever been involved in. Breaking my leg last year, which laid me up for most of the summer, wasn’t helpful either.”

Through eminent domain, a municipality can take private property for public use, with compensation to the owner. Vance said that the town is only acquiring title to one property, but is obtaining permanent easements on, according to his estimate, six other properties. The sewer system was required by the state because the Fox Creek was being polluted by outdated septic systems.

Vance added that he plans to continue working with the sewer district for a time after he leaves office.

“I’m going to stay involved, and Lamont Engineering is going to take over project management,” Vance said. “I’d say the biggest problem in the sewer district is that a project manager was not hired. Really, the first chapter of the book on setting up a sewer district is to hire a project manager. That’s the role that I’ve had to take on.”

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