At Old Forge, local issues attract a new level of potential elected officials

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This year’s candidates for Webb Town Supervisor and City Council attended a Meet the Candidates Night event hosted last month by LivingADK (CAP-21) in View, the Old Forge arts center. Pictured left: Current City Supervisor Dave Berkstresser (Incumbent), Current Council Member Webb Don Haehl (Incumbent), Council Candidate Webb Kyle Lindsay (Written Candidate), Current Council Member Mike Ross (incumbent), CAP-21 Executive Director Robin Hill, Supervisor Candidate Megan Ulrich, Supervisor Candidate Bonnie Baker and Council Candidate Tom Greco. Photo by Jamie Organski

Housing, health care, economy in the lead for full list of applicants

By Jamie Organski

In small towns prone to gossip, election season is often a prime time for residents to sit down and watch the drama unfold. Typically, by this time, people put up signs on the lawn to support their favorite candidates, rivalries have been identified, and the election becomes the town’s talking point at local restaurants and bars for the next month.

The town of Webb is no exception, and this year’s nominees represent not only a wide range of ages and experience in local government, but very contrasting personality types. While this combination turned out to be entertaining, the tone is different this year. Applicants and residents speak of the urgent need for transparency, openness and action when it comes to local leadership and the future sustainability of the community.

A call for unity in times of unrest was an important theme at an event organized by LivingADK (CAP-21), where the candidates for the post of city supervisor and city council presented themselves, detailed what they hope to accomplish in the next term and answered questions posed by the community.

The candidates for the post of supervisor are Dave Berkstresser (Democrat, incumbent), Bonnie Baker (independent) and Megan Ulrich (independent). Candidates for city council include Don Haehl (Republican, incumbent), Mike Ross (Republican, incumbent), Kyle Lindsay (nominee to register) and Tom Greco (independent).

Hot topics

Here are some of the issues that preoccupy applicants:

SHORT TERM RENTALS: Rarely would all of the candidates agree that government oversight is an integral part of policing the rise in short-term rentals (STRs). Webb’s council candidate Don Haehl said the city has a responsibility to uphold the right of landlords to rent out their properties, but the city also has a responsibility to uphold the rights of neighboring residents. The city’s STR law should not be overbearing, Haehl said, it should serve as a guide consistent with current city codes.

Supervisor candidate Bonnie Baker said the city needs to strike a balance between residents and vacation rental guests. Baker spoke about an act restriction program that she says has been instrumental in helping the town of Vail, Colo., Improve its workforce housing problem. According to the agreement between the landlord and the city, the deed accommodation must be occupied by at least one person who works at least 30 hours per week at a company in Eagle County.

Current supervisor Dave Berkstresser said one of Webb’s weaknesses is its seasonality, which makes it difficult for businesses to thrive year round. Council candidate Tom Greco, who runs the Front Door Diner / Back Door Bar at Old Forge, disagrees with Berkstresser, stating that he believes Webb Town is a year-round town and that the authorities must respond by solving the problem of affordable housing.

“[The town] must be ready to give up what has always been and adapt to growth, ”said Greco.

NEW HOUSING: Lindsay suggested the city work with the Herkimer County IDA and research existing land structures that could be used for housing.

“The goal must be to get there, to move forward [which is] a difficult step to take, ”said Lindsay. “I hope the board listens to all the aspects presented. We need to have all of our ducks in a row before anything is signed that can hurt us in the end. “

Council candidate Mike Ross said city council takes the need for housing for the local workforce seriously and as building a subdivision is uncharted territory for council, the project will require planning and meticulous time. Berkstresser agreed with Ross, saying that replacing or reengineering the city’s sewer lines will have to be done within 10 years, another expensive and time-consuming endeavor.

HEALTH CARE: Another area that needs improvement is Webb’s limited health services, supervisor candidate Megan Ulrich said. She believes that while residents are fortunate enough to have the local health center, the council should investigate emergency care options as there is a dead zone between Raquette Lake and Barneveld. An accessible healthcare facility is vital, so people do not need to call 911 for ailments such as broken fingers, increasing the burden on emergency service volunteers who are already exhausted and in need of help. looking for additional manpower, Ulrich said.

old forge by the water
Webb City Council voted to ban the mooring of overnight boats / ships at Old Forge Lakefront from June 15, 2021. To address the issue, the city is looking to provide mooring spaces for overnight boats and to install docks on city property near the Pied Piper. Work should start next year. Photo by Jamie Organski

NIGHT BOAT PARKING PROHIBITION: Ulrich criticized the board for consistently taking the easy way out when it came to making controversial decisions such as banning overnight boats from the Old Forge lake.

“[Local government] has to start associating and stop being complacent, ”Ulrich said.

In defense of the decision, Haehl said the ban allowed everyone equal access to the lakeside, and the board discussed alternative options, including using a kiosk system and creating docks to accommodate more boaters. Haehl suggested that the city establish its own public boat launch at the former Old Forge Lake Cruises location so boaters don’t have to travel 10 miles to the Inlet to enjoy the waters. local.

SMALL COMMERCIAL STRUGGLES: Local resident Erica Murray, who owns the Old Forge hardware store alongside her husband, spoke of the challenges of navigating the pandemic as a small business owner, adding that it would have been good to have the support of city ​​leaders. Murray encouraged greater communication between the board and the community for the benefit of all.

“I always felt like the redhead stepson,” Murray said. “No one works together and no one is united in a divided world. [It would be] great to feel you want us here.

Election day is Tuesday, November 2. For more information on the upcoming general election, visit https://www.herkimercounty.org/government/board-of-elections/.

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