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Speed faces bid by Wheeler for Philmont mayor


PHILMONT — What do 15 years as village trustee and then mayor add up to?

“Experience,” says incumbent Clarence “Skip” Speed, seeking his fourth term in the mayor’s chair.

“Stagnation,” says challenger Brian Wheeler.

The two face off in the village election Tuesday, March 15. Polls at the Village Hall are open from noon to 9 p.m.

Clarence “Skip” Speed

“I know everything that’s going on in the village,” says Mr. Speed. “I’m involved in all of it.”

Among the positive developments on his watch, he lists:

*First and foremost, holding the village tax rate steady for 2010

*Securing (at a savings to the village of $30,000) the library’s present home when it outgrew the Village Hall

*Placing stop-for-pedestrians crosswalks on Main Street

*Improvements at the Summit Lake beach area and development of the community center

*New retaining walls on Highland Avenue and Prospect and Church streets.

Also, he says, “our Main Street has improved quite a bit, with four new storefronts, two that used to be residential.”

The mayor doesn’t claim all the credit for these achievements. “It takes a lot of people working together for the good of the village. That’s what I want to do, bring people together and manage things.”

Looking to the future, Mr. Speed hopes to:

*Find funds to clean up the reservoir. “It’s one of our assets that should be made useful to the public again”

*Get the proposed Philmont Food Co-op up and running at the former Stewart’s site on Main Street, to provide villagers with a gathering place where they can get grocery items and a fresh, non-microwaved breakfast

*Work toward building a new Department of Public Works garage. (“It’s not going to happen right away,” he cautions. “There’s no money right now”)

*Install surveillance cameras to help reduce vandalism and worse on village streets.

Mr. Speed, 71, has lived in Philmont for “70 1/2 years.” He and his wife of 51 years, Winnie, have three grown children, Robbie, Kipper and Michelle. He attended Philmont High School and graduated from Ockawamick High School in 1958.

After several years with Schermerhorn’s Garage on Main Street, he opened his own garage in Mellenville in 1982.

He is vice-president and a 25-year member of the Mellenville Volunteer Fire Company, an honorary member of the Philmont Fire Company, and a member of the Philmont Rod and Gun Club and the Federation of Polish Sportsmen. He serves on the board of the planned Food Co-op, the Mellenville Cemetery Board, the Philmont Streetscape Committee and the committee to keep the Pine Haven Home in Philmont.

Brian Wheeler

“It’s time for a change,” says Brian Wheeler. “When you’ve been in [for 15 years], you become stagnant. We need new blood.”

“The mayor let the rescue squad leave, he let Stewart’s leave, and now he wants to consolidate the [Mellenville and Philmont] fire companies.” The companies, he says, are “not compatible, not at all,” and combining them would mean putting up a costly new building.

(Mr. Speed denies that he seeks to merge the two fire companies, saying: “They’ve been talking about it, because down the road it’s going to be mandated by the state.”)

As to the departure of Stewart’s and the rescue squad, Mr. Wheeler concedes that Mayor Speed “may not have been able to do anything, but he never came out and tried. By the time he did, it was too late.”

Asked what he wants to do for Philmont, Mr. Wheeler says, “I want to save people money. They want to spend $570,000 for a DPW building when the people have no say on it.”

Reminded that if 10% of residents petition for it, a permissive referendum must be held on any bond issue for the project, Mr. Wheeler asks, “Why should we have to force a referendum? They could save all that money if they consolidated DPW with the Town of Claverack.”

He adds, “They should have fixed [the DPW facility] years ago, but they just let it go.”

“I want to try to bring business back in,” Mr. Wheeler says. “I’m not saying I can work miracles, but we have to do something.”

Mr. Wheeler, 39, is a lifelong village resident and a 1990 graduate of Taconic Hills High School. He and his wife, Jennifer, are the parents of daughters Ashley, 9, and Jody, 10.

He is a 20-year volunteer firefighter and currently serves the company as first lieutenant and acting secretary.

He is a former member of the Philmont Rescue Squad and a former Meals-on-Wheels volunteer.

Trustees unopposed

Also on the ballot Tuesday are Village Trustees Doug Cropper and Larry Ostrander, both running unopposed for re-election.

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