GNH Lumber February 2024

Busy campaign stirs once sleepy Ancram this year

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ANCRAM–Political party affiliations have been tossed to the wind this year as Democrats embrace Republicans as running mates and Republicans cast their lots with Democrats.

Inadequate highway garage facilities, a completed but unadopted Comprehensive Plan, an exposed property assessment analysis that raised more questions than it answered, missing campaign signs and most recently questions about how vinyl siding bids for the town hall came to be sought in the first place have all emerged as campaign issues in a town of 1,500, where politics was once a ho-hum matter.

What follows are profiles of candidates based on completed questionnaires submitted to The Columbia Paper. Candidates appear in alphabetical order. 

Supervisor

Arthur Bassin, 65, is an enrolled Democrat, seeking a first two-year term on the Democratic line. Mr. Bassin has owned and operated Cricket Hill Farm, a horse farm on Snyder Road, since 1978.

He worked at Citibank from 1969 to 1983, and became a vice president; was executive vice president at the Dime from 1983 to 1992; and was president/chief executive officer at TV Data Technologies from 1994 to 2001.

Born in New York City, he graduated from Exeter in 1962; earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1965 and a master’s in business administration in 1969, both from Harvard.

Mr. Bassin served as an officer in the U.S. Army from 1965 to 1971.

His wife is Susan Bassin.

Among his community activities, Mr. Bassin lists: director and treasurer, Amputee Coalition of America; chair, Comprehensive Planning Committee 2007 to 2009; chair, Community Development and Block Grant Committee 2008 to 2009; and chair Agriculture and Farmland Protection Planning Committee 2008 to 2009.

In his statement of issues, Mr. Bassin said: “I will act to adopt the Comprehensive Plan, then do the zoning revisions based on an approved plan, which is what state law and common sense requires.

“We should use the current garage site for the new town garage and develop a 5-year plan for replacing needed highway equipment. The current garage site is the only place in town that will not generate huge resistance from neighbors, and it will be the least costly and most environmentally responsible way to go as well.”

Mr. Bassin said, “We have to keep political influence out of assessments, and make sure our assessor is not under pressure from our politicians to target certain groups of people or political adversaries.”      

Town leaders should “eliminate We-They tension and work to promote a sense of Us–cooperation, understanding and consensus–not encourage divisiveness, contention and discord,” he said.

“Town property taxes are slightly under $1 million and have doubled over the last four years. Spending and taxes should be cut by carefully setting financial priorities, instead of bumping taxes up a couple of percent each year,” he said. “We need to understand what our taxes are going for, where we can cut back, and how we are going to pay for a new garage and new highway equipment.” 

Thomas R. Dias, 60, the incumbent supervisor, has lived in Columbia County for 20 years. He is an enrolled Republican, who has been supervisor for two years. He is endorsed by his own party as well as the Conservative, Independence and Ancram First parties.

Mr. Dias went to Hendrick Hudson High School, Marist College and Westchester Community College. He is retired from IBM, where he worked in management/engineering for 29 years.

He served as a town justice from 1994 to 2007.

Mr. Dias has been a member of the Ancram Volunteer Fire Company since 1991, is a past lieutenant and current trustee. He is a member of the Ancram Landowners’ Association; was a Columbia Memorial Hospital board member from 1997 to 2001; a member of the Pine Plains Lions Club and past president from 1998 to 2000; a retired member of the Columbia County Magistrates’ Association and past president from 2000 to 2002; a current board member of the state Magistrates’ Association and past president in 2006.

His wife is Linda Dias. Mr. Dias has five grown children–Dominick, Erik, Kyle, Michelle and Christina–and six grandchildren–Nadiera, Ethan, Grant, Kayden, Jacob and Mya.

In his statement of issues Mr.Dias listed fiscal prudence and keeping the town expenses and taxes under control. “I will continue to be conservative with the town’s financial means and spend the taxpayer’s money wisely.”

Town highway garage and equipment upgrades are also important and “I plan to bring a referendum before the town residents to vote on an upgraded facility for the town highway garage and a long-term plan to upgrade the town highway equipment,” he said.

Mr. Dias said, “I plan to continue to emphasize an open government structure, which includes the town website, www.townofancram.org, townwide newsletters and an increased participation of town residents in all committees. In addition, I will assist the existing committees to move forward with projects.”

Mr. Dias said his accomplishments include: reduction of the town budget and the tax rate his first year as supervisor; increasing both the number of committees in the town government and the number of town residents that participate in the committees.

Mr. Dias said he was able to make the case that the county should purchase and install a portable/temporary replacement bridge on Hall Hill Road after the original bridge developed a three-foot hole in the decking. “This portable bridge is planned to be used at numerous locations in our county where bridge replacements are planned. This saves the county thousands of dollars in rental fees.” 

Town Board

Four people are running for two available seats on the Town Board.

Donna Hoyt, 54, has served on the Town Board for one year and seeks her first four-year term. She is an enrolled Democrat running on the Republican, Conservative and Ancram First party lines.

Born in Astoria, Long Island, Mrs. Hoyt graduated from high school and cosmetology 1 and has a state cosmetology license. She owns and operates the Beautiful You hair salon and does hair care at the Whittier Nursing Home and Whittier Assisted Living Home. Mrs. Hoyt and her husband, Joseph, have three grown children–Jessica, 28; Tristan, 24; and Joseph Jr., 23.

She was a member of the Ancram Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary for 17 years and serves on the Community Development and Block Grant Committee and the Senior Committee. She is the town’s deputy supervisor.

“After 35 years of running three separate businesses, raising and putting three children through school and college, this is a time in my life that I feel I can give to my community,” Mrs. Hoyt said in her issues statement.

“What I want to bring to this position is life experience and common sense. We unfortunately get caught up in the politics and forget we are supposed to represent the people that elected us. We have major issues facing our town such as our Comprehensive Plan, our highway garage and our deteriorating highway equipment. These problems need to be solved without putting added burden on our taxpayers. If I am still in this office I will make decisions only after I have all the information available to make the best decision and the most fiscally sound solution,” she said.

Madeleine Israel, 68, is an enrolled Democrat running on the Democratic line for her first four-year term on the Town Board.

Born in New York City, she earned a bachelor of arts degree in English at Brooklyn College.

She is a fundraiser for Camphill Village in Copake and has worked there since 1994.

She and her late husband, Paul Israel, have two grown children–Nancy, 43, and Erik 41, and two grandchildren–Daniel, 8, and Julia, 6.

Mrs. Israel is a member of the Ancram Planning Board, the Ancram Senior Commission, Rhoda Lake Association Board of Directors, the Ancramdale Neighbors Helping Neighbors group and co-chairs the Ancram Democratic Committee.

In her statement of issues, Mrs. Israel said the location and construction of the highway garage demands immediate attention. “With creative planning, we can build the new highway garage on its current site.”

Also important is the adoption of the Comprehensive Plan and subsequent zoning revisions. Current zoning dates from 1972 and doesn’t adequately address present and future issues. The new Comprehensive Plan needs to be approved so zoning can be brought up to date, she said.

The town also needs prudent spending and long-range financial planning, which is the only possible way to keep taxes from rising.

Town unity is also necessary, she said. “By working together, listening thoughtfully and respectfully to one another, Ancram will make progress. Divisiveness brings progress to a standstill,” she said.

Robert Mayhew, 49, has served as councilman for one year and is running for a full four-year term.

An enrolled Democrat, Mr. Mayhew has the endorsements of the Democratic, Ancram First and Conservative parties.

Born in Sharon, Conn., Mr. Mayhew graduated from Stissing Mountain. Jr./Sr. High School in 1978 and attended Dutchess County BOCES.

For the past 25 years he has been a self-employed contractor with MM Construction.

He and his wife, Patty, have four grown sons–Michael, 29; Teddy, 30; Robert, 31, and Jimmy, 32.

Mr. Mayhew enlisted in the U.S. Army and served from 1978 to 1984. He was a construction engineering supervisor and achieved the rank of staff sergeant E6. He earned several military citations including the Army Service Ribbon.

In his statement of issues, Mr. Mayhew said, “We have developed and adopted an Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan; appointed an Agricultural Advisory Committee; established townwide email; expanded website; developed/implemented monthly newsletter; designed and upgraded Town Hall bulletin board; enhanced participation in monthly meetings, encouraging and allowing public participation; updated and implemented new Ethics Law; appointed task force to oversee community service needs; developed and implemented recreational service plan; enhanced telecommunications infrastructure; expanded GIS tools to be used in all town departments and started a monthly workshop, encouraging town participation, to plan and expedite our monthly board meetings.

“We have lowered next year’s budget 2% from this year, this is the second year that Supervisor Dias has managed to lower the town budget.”

Christopher Thomas, 41, a Republican, is running for a four-year term with his party’s endorsement.

Born in Hudson, Mr. Thomas earned a BA in economics from the State University at Albany. He is general manager at Montgomery Distributors, a gasoline distributor.

He and his wife, Ruth, have four children–Victoria, 18; Rebeccah, 15; Alex, 12; and Julia, 3.

Mr. Thomas is a member of the West Copake Reformed Church.

Describing this election year as an important one for Ancram, Mr. Thomas said in his statement, “There are many decisions that will need to be made in the near future including adopting the Comprehensive Plan, building a new highway garage, budgeting for the future equipment needs of the highway department and providing an adequate park facility for our children.

“Over the past few years it seems the current board has either been unable or unwilling to make the tough decisions before them. As times and problems continue to become more difficult, now is the time for leadership and the ability to move forward. Please look at each candidate’s qualifications and record and make your decision for the future of Ancram carefully.” He urged everyone to vote. 

Highway superintendent

Three men are looking to become road boss this year, including the man who has held that post for the last 13 years, James MacArthur, 59. He seeks another two-year term. He is running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence party lines.

Mr. MacArthur was born in Great Barrington, and has a high school diploma.

His wife is Andrea MacArthur. He has one daughter, who is 28 years old.

Mr. MacArthur is a 27-year member of the Ancram Fire Company, is first vice president of the Columbia County Firefighters Association, is past commander and present junior vice commander of the Cadby Shutts VFW Post #7552, is a member of the American Legion Post #178 in Millerton, president of the Columbia County Town Highway Superintendents Association and a member of the New York State Association of Town Highway Superintendents.

He served in the U.S. Army for seven years and is a Vietnam veteran.

In his statement, Mr. MacArthur identified two main issues facing the highway department at this time–the inadequate highway facility where equipment is stored and repaired and the need to replace aging equipment.

“I always have and will continue to work with your town board to resolve these two very important issues, but keep in mind I have no budgetary power over these issues. It is strictly a Town Board decision. I will pledge to taxpayers and voters of Ancram that I will continue as I have for the past 13 years to work with pride and dignity to maintain your roads to the highest standard possible with the resources I am given.

“I am fortunate to have a crew of four people, who share the same pride in our work that I do, and if re-elected we will continue that pride and hard work for the citizens and traveling public.”

Keith W. Morey, 53, seeks his first two-year term as highway superintendent. He is an enrolled Republican running on the Ancram Residential Party line.

Born in the Bronx, Mr. Morey graduated from Pine Plains High School in 1975.

He is a heavy equipment operator, truck driver and mechanic.

Mr. Morey and his wife, Anna, have been married for 31 years. They have three grown children–Jessica, 30; Bryan, 27; and Cameron, 20.

Mr. Morey has been a member of the Ancram Fire Company for 37 years and is a life member.

He is also a member of the Faith Bible Chapel in Millerton and the Hudson Valley Old Time Power Association, Inc., Hudson.

Mr. Morey said in his statement that he worked on Ancram highways for 13 years. “All service maintenance and repairs were done in house with the exception of major repairs. Having 65 miles of road to maintain, in-house repairs saved us time and money an issue we face today,” he said.

“Our highways are better today than 15 years ago, yet there are drainage problems and many roads are without base material. Continually our roads are in need of repair costing the taxpayers a great expense.

“The greatest issue we face is communication. I am from the old school, physically being on the job, working with the highway crew, Town Board and the greatest of all, the taxpayers. We are all taxpayers and it’s important to keep the lines of communication open with one another. As a community, we face many decisions.”

Robert B. Roche, 55, is an enrolled Democrat, running with his party’s endorsement for highway superintendent. He is a lifelong resident of Columbia County

A 1973 graduate of Taconic Hills High School, Mr. Roche works for Pine Plains Ford Tractor as a mechanic, working on commercial and farm equipment, a job he has held for 13 years.

Mr. Roche is president of the church council at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Ancram; and is a member of the Western Mass Antique Tractor Pullers’ Association and the U.S. Trotting Association.

His wife is Mary Ann Roche; they have three daughters–Corey Lorraine, 28; Jennifer Lynn, 26, and Brittnay Alexandra, 12.

In his statement of issues, Mr. Roche said “an overall assessment of the town’s highways needs to be made with the help of an engineer to determine the root cause of repeated problem situations and a plan made to address these problems. I would seek the expertise of the engineer at our disposal from the county to resolve the necessity and expense of repeatedly fixing the same problems.”

Mr. Roche said he would work with the town board to jointly make an annual work plan and budget and request that the plan be reviewed and assessed monthly. The monthly review would avoid surprise expenditures and also help to keep the annual plan for highways on target. Mr. Roche said he would attend every town board meeting as well as workshop to implement this plan. “I feel that attendance by the highway superintendent is vital and should be mandatory.”

With a proper highway garage, equipment maintenance and repair could be done for the most part in-house, thus avoiding huge equipment repair bills, he said. “I will support my town board in whatever decision is made to replace our highway garage as I feel that work conditions such as they are now contribute to equipment breakdown and/or failure.  I also feel that morale among highway department employees would be greatly increased if they had a better work environment,” he said. 

Town Clerk/Tax collector

Monica R. Cleveland, 31, has served three two-year terms as town clerk/tax collector and is running unopposed for another term.

She is an enrolled Republican and has her party’s endorsement along with the Conservative Party line.

Born in Sharon, Conn., she graduated from Pine Plains High School in 1997 and attended Columbia-Greene Community College from 1997 to 1998. She previously worked as a teller for the Salisbury Bank and Trust Company from 1998 to 2001. She was named the Employee of the Quarter at the bank in 2000.

Mrs. Cleveland and her husband, Brandon S. Cleveland, have two children–Sydney, 8, and Ronald, 2½.

She is elder, clerk of session and Sunday school superintendent at the Ancramdale Presbyterian Church, a member of the Ancram Youth Commission and leader of Girl Scout Troop 10598.

Mrs. Cleveland said in her statement that in the future she hopes that Ancram will be a place where her children can live and raise their children. “As town clerk and a member of the Ancram Youth Commission, I am working hard with my fellow commission members to buy and install safe and adequate playground equipment for the children of Ancram.”  She wants Ancram children to have programs and  opportunities similar to those she had as a child growing up in Ancram.

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@ColumbiaPaper.com.

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