By Matthew Reitz
A perceived indifference and lack of response to residents’ concerns is at the heart of several new candidates’ decisions to seek office in the town of Granby this year.
“I don’t like hearing ‘there’s nothing we can do,’” Stephen Abraham, a Democrat seeking to unseat Conservative/Republican incumbent Ed Williamson as town supervisor, said regarding the town’s handling of residents’ complaints.
Williamson, who has been in office since 2008, said he’d like to know where people think the lack of response is with him or the board.
“I’m in that office Monday through Friday, and I’m there on Saturday and Sunday if the job warrants it,” Williamson said. “Any time someone has a problem, if they call me, I do my level best to try to solve the problem for them.”
Abraham, who has been in business for over 30 years at Fulton TV and Appliance, feels he’s a good fit for the job, and spending more time at town meetings has given him a better sense of the issues facing the community.
“I feel I can make a positive impact,” Abraham said. “The supervisor’s job is to manage the town, oversee finances, and deal with the public.”
Through his years in business, Abraham feels the experience he’s gained lends itself well to the job of town supervisor. He said he’d like to see some of the water service projects expedited, and thinks the town could better address residents’ concerns over a particular gravel mining operation on county Route 85.
“That’s a lousy situation,” Abraham said of the county Route 85 mine. “It’s been very non-confrontational, and I think a lot more could and should be done.”
For his part, Williamson says he’s been able to keep the tax rate in the town steady and control the finances, while still improving the community.
“The tax rate in the town of Granby has been kept the same ever since I’ve been in office at $2.46 per every $1,000 of assessment,” Williamson said. “I can’t do anything about school taxes or fire department taxes.”
Williamson said he’s also been successful in procuring grants for construction projects, working with state and federal officials to bring money into the town, and has been able to pay off many of the town’s loans for heavy equipment earlier than required. A lifelong resident of Granby, Williamson also cited the beginning of the town’s Family Fun Day in 2008, and the continued efforts to clean up Lake Neatahwanta as some of his major accomplishments apart from controlling the town’s finances.
“We’ve done a great job in keeping the taxes low,” Williamson said when asked why people should vote for him again. “I’m constantly working for the people.”
Lynn Lyons, a Democrat seeking one of the two open seats on the town board, also feels the current leadership doesn’t always understand the issues facing the community.
“Going to town board meetings, as I have for years, I’m really appalled at some of the lack of knowledge that we have on the town board,” Lyons said. “When questions are asked they don’t even know that it was an issue. I just think that we need more people that care.”
People like to know that their concerns are being treated as such, Lyons said. She said her regular attendance at meetings has kept her well-versed in the issues facing the town and its residents.
“I want to be one of those people that try to get the answer for people,” Lyons said. “It might not be the one they like, but they need an answer.”
A lifelong resident of the area, Lyons has lived in Granby for over 30 years and raised four children in the town. She said she cares deeply about her community, and would like to help create opportunities so many of the area’s young people don’t need to leave in search of jobs.
“So many kids have left because of no jobs,” Lyons said. “I would like to see our community brought back to where it was—where people feel free to walk the streets and enjoy one another. I just want to see that all happen again, and I think I can help out with that.”
In the past, Lyons has served on the town’s Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. She said she’d like to “check into the water districts,” because she thinks water will eventually be an issue for the community.
“I care. I can’t state that enough,” Lyons said when asked why voters should choose her. “And I’m sick of getting answers that aren’t really answers. I’d be more attentive to the needs of the people. I think there’s a lack of that right now.”
Tracy Doyle is also seeking one of the two open seats on the town board, and will be running on the Conservative and Republican lines. He said he’s lived in Granby for “quite a long time,” and he’d like to see some properties in the town cleaned up, but there aren’t too many other things he would change.
“Granby is in good shape,” Doyle said. “Granby has the second-lowest taxes in the county.”
He said he does a lot of community service in the area, including a bicycle giveaway drive for needy children, the annual Great Eastern Whiteout, and is involved in efforts to clean up Lake Neatahwanta.
“I’m very attached to that project,” Doyle said of the lake cleanup.
Doyle stressed that there’s no place for kids to go swimming in the area, and that he’d like to see Granby have it’s own public access spot on the lake.
“It’s a great natural resource that we have, and it’s just gone overlooked,” Doyle said.
One thing Doyle said he would like to see is a park for the children of Granby. He said the town is in good shape financially, and now is the time to make an investment in the future.
“Kids are everything,” Doyle said. “We need to invest in our future.”
If elected, Doyle said he will make a point of listening to the people. He said he’s easy to get ahold of and has a flexible schedule as a business owner.
Doyle said he’s looking forward to a friendly competition, and he won’t get involved in ‘dirty politics.’ He urged people to come out and vote, whether it’s for him or the other candidates. All the people running are good people, he said.
“People need to get out and vote,” Doyle said. “Let’s see a big voter turnout.”
Melissa Fortier, also running on the Conservative and Republican lines, has spent over 25 years in Granby and raised her family there. Fortier said she currently manages a bank in Fulton, and working with people for eight to nine hours each day has given her valuable experience that could help on the town board.
“I have to deal with differing opinions and the use of common sense,” Fortier said.
Fortier said that more of the town board’s decision making needs to be in the interest of the residents, not the politicians. She said there weren’t any specific issues she’s planning to bring up with the board, but would like to see board members become more responsive to the needs of the community.
A three-way race for highway superintendent will pit Jeffrey Richards, running on the Conservative and Independence lines, and Robert Collins, a Republican, against incumbent Robert Phillips, who is running as a Democrat.
Collins said he’s worked highway jobs for “quite a few years” through several different contractors and has had a store and construction business of his own. He said that experience will help him know the costs of maintenance and repair, and how to manage a staff. He said the highway department currently isn’t doing the job as best it can.
“They need to plow the roads better,” Collins said. “The (highway superintendent’s) job is basically to make sure the roads are safe for people to get out on. Basically, we’re not getting that.”
Richards, who has raised a family in Granby and lived in the town since 1982, said things have changed in the last four years since longtime highway superintendent Lynn Moyer retired. Richards said he’d like to return the department to the way it was prior to Moyer’s departure.
“I want to see the highway department set back to where it was under the supervision of Lynn Moyer,” Richards said.
A part-time dairy farmer who works a night job in Syracuse, Richards said he sees the road conditions every day of the year and is an avid weather-watcher. He said past superintendents have relied on workers to watch the weather and assess road conditions at night, but he will be able to get that information first-hand.
In the past, Richards has spent time on the town’s planning board, two years as chairman of the Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District, and participated on an Agricultural Program Committee with Cornell Cooperative Extension.
“When people ask what kind of experience I have, I tell them I have no more or no less experience than the two guys I’m running against. I’m honest with everybody,” Richards said. “I feel this is a job for a true public servant.”
Robert Phillips, the incumbent, said he’s doing his best to keep the roads in good condition without spending too much money. Phillips, who’s spent his entire life in Granby, took the position following a special election last November. Experience with paving, bridge construction and plowing are among Phillips’ qualifications, and he said he’s gotten valuable experience over the last year learning the billing process with the county, working with the budget and presenting issues to the town board.
He said he drives his own vehicle to help save the town money, something past superintendents did not do, and puts in full-time hours at a part-time position.
“I’ve tried to improve the roads for safety purposes and kept the budget down doing it,” Phillips said.
He also said he recently helped the town find a used snow plow to purchase from the Town of Schroeppel for around $70,000, saving over $140,000 off the $216,000 price for a new vehicle.