Most candidates skip Andes forum

Above: Wayland “Bud” Gladstone, left, and Ed Callahan participated in a candidates' forum on Sunday. The empty seats were reserved for candidates who did not show up for the event. Photo by Robert Cairns.

A candidates' forum drew 50 Andes residents to the Andes Hotel on Sunday, Oct. 18, but only two of the six candidates for seats on the town council joined them.

Wayland “Bud” Gladstone, the Democratic Party candidate for town supervisor, appeared at the event, while his Republican opponent, Ritchie Gabriel, did not. Both are running to succeed retiring Supervisor Martin Donnelly, who has held the post for close to two decades.

Republican Edward Callahan was the only town council candidate to appear, as fellow Republican Shayne Moshier and Democrats Thomas Hall and Bruce Soules were absent.

The event was sponsored by “Andes Works,” a community organization, and moderated by Andes resident Jack McShane. “I don't know why the rest of them are not here,” McShane said of the missing candidates. “Thanks to those who are here.”

It was later revealed that the other Republican candidates had been at a gathering of their own at the Andes Rod and Gun Club, which had been scheduled for the same time period.

Wayland "Bud" Gladstone

During his opening statement, Gladstone said that he had been a dairy farmer in Andes for most of his life and a beef and hay farmer for the last decade. He told the crowd that, shortly after he took the farm over from his father, a fire destroyed three of his four barns.

“I've had to rebound and run on a tight budget, just like the town,” he said.

Gladstone said that running the farm has occasionally meant “working by the seat of your pants,” but said, “when you're dealing with other people's money, like the town, you can't really work by the seat of your pants.”

Currently a town councilman, Gladstone said that he has worked closely with Donnelly, a Republican. “[Donnelly] has acknowledged that I would be the better candidate for the town,” he said.

Gladstone said that he has worked to improve transparency and fiscal responsibility in government since joining the board.

“We've managed the budget very tightly,” he said. He said, however, that the budgets have not been balanced by cutting money from the highway department, as had been done previously.

“You cannot expect a highway superintendent to do the job in a town the size of Andes, taking money away every year,” he said.

Gladstone also said that he would not accept a pay increase as long as he is in office.

“My father always said 'You pay your help before you pay yourself,'” he said.

Edward Callahan

Callahan told those assembled that he was a New York City police officer before retiring to Andes, where he and his wife now own a real estate agency, Callahan Catskill Real Estate. “We really have a lot of chips in the game,” he said.

Callahan said that he has served on the town's planning board for eight years and sees a town council seat as “the natural progression in my involvement.”

He said that he plans to be an active member.

“I always wanted to be a vocal member of whatever board I'm on,” he said.

Callahan said that it is fine for board members to disagree, but that they must listen to each other and “be willing to learn.”

He called for fiscal responsibility, saying, “I want to base all our decisions on how our money can be spent wisely.”

He echoed Gladstone's support of the highway department, asking, “How are we going to expect these guys to do the job without the proper equipment and the money to do it?”

Callahan said that bringing new businesses to town will be a priority for him if he is elected.

Above: Andes Town Council candidates Wayland “Bud” Gladstone, left, and Ed Callahan answered questions during a forum on Sunday, Oct. 18 at the Andes Hotel.

Salaries and conflicts

After opening statements, McShane read questions that were submitted by the audience.

When asked about plans to increase business, Gladstone noted that he had advanced the idea of an economic development committee in July, and that the town council had adopted it. He said that 20 people had attended the first meeting.

“The economic development committee needs to drive the boat to bring the town together,” he said. He said the committee's focus “is to promote the town of Andes,” and said that the keys to economic viability are “people coming up [Route] 28 and businesses here to serve them.”

Another questioner claimed that Councilman Shayne Moshier violated state law by voting to approve pay increases for his wife, Tina, who is the town's assessor. The questioner asked if Gladstone would demand accountability and avoid conflicts of interest.

Gladstone said that he was concerned about such conflicts when he first ran for the town council four years ago and said that he had scrupulously avoided them while serving as a director of the Watershed Agricultural Council (WAC). He said he would ask the board to create a document stating that board members would abstain from votes when conflicts exist.

Callahan agreed. “If it's a law, we all need to abide by it,” he said.

Tina Moshier's salary came up again, later, when a questioner asked if it was true that Gladstone wanted to change elected positions, such as clerk, highway superintendent and assessor, to appointed positions.

Gladstone said the New York State Association of Towns, of which Andes is a member, has recommended such changes, though he has not taken a position.

He said, however, that Tina Moshier's pay and benefits cost the town over $70,000 per year for a part-time position and that, by moving to an appointed assessor, the board could bring that number down.

“I am against a full-time salary for a part-time position,” he said.

Gladstone said that Moshier had accepted appointment as Hamden's assessor and had proposed taking a six-percent pay cut while scaling her work week in Andes back from five days to three. After discussion, he said, Moshier proposed to work four days for Andes. He said that the board accommodated Moshier's wishes.

“We had a split vote. I was on the short side of it,” he said.

Gladstone said that he had researched the compensation for assessors in nearby towns and found it worked out to about $10 per parcel of property, while Andes pays approximately $30 per parcel.

Both candidates were asked to talk about their plans for economic development.

Gladstone said that it is important to work with local agencies such as WAC, the Delaware County Soil and Water Conservation District, the MARK Project and others.

“Partnering agencies are a critical, critical component,” he said. He said his personal relationships with officials in those agencies “are extremely important.”

Cost of court building

Other questioners asked about the cost of a new court building and the sale of the old town hall building. One claimed to have heard that the cost of the court building was $440,000.

Gladstone said that three options were explored for the court. The first, he said, was moving the court to the old town hall. That idea was abandoned when it was found that it would cost $108,000 just to make the building structurally safe, not taking into account the need for a new roof, new plumbing and electric and other renovations.

A second idea, erecting a new building, either modular or stick-built, was also abandoned due to cost.

The final solution, he said, was to improve the existing building for approximately $250,000. Of that amount, $60,000 will come from a state grant. The sale of the old town hall for $40,000 will also offset the cost, leaving $150,000, which Gladstone said would be taken from the “Good Neighbor Fund,” which was given to the town by New York City under the Memorandum of Agreement between the city and the towns in its watershed.

As for the figure of $440,000, Gladstone said, “I have no idea where that came from.”

Responding to other questions, both candidates said that they opposed Delaware County's proposed hotel and motel occupancy tax, also known as the bed tax.

“I actually think they got the cart before the horse,” Gladstone said.

Both also said that bipartisanship was important. “Doing the right thing doesn't have a party label on it,” Callahan said.

Both candidates said they would support a senior citizen center in the town if it was proposed, and similarly said they would support reopening the former Bobcat Ski Center if a developer brought forth a viable plan.

When asked about their visions for the future of the town, Gladstone said, “You need to be forward-thinking. You have to have a vision of some sort if you want to move ahead.” He said the work of the new economic development committee can lead to making Andes “a destination.”

Callahan said that his real estate business gives him a role in promoting the town.

“We're on the first line of defense in boasting about Andes,” he said. He agreed that the economic development committee is “the first step in really getting us out there.”

When asked after the event why their fellow candidates had not appeared, both men said that they did not know. Callahan said that he had “stopped by” the Republican event earlier in the day, and said that he had learned about it only a few days before.

“I was a bit perturbed by that,” he said. “I thought I was on the Republican Committee.”