By DAN HEATH
---- — PLATTSBURGH — The candidates for Clinton County Legislature Area 4 outlined their positions during a forum Thursday night, including contrasting views on town-city merger.
Hosted by the Cumberland Head Taxpayers Association, the event drew about 40 people to Cumberland Head Fire Station.
Gerard Renadette (R, C) and Colin Read (D, WF, I) offered their views on a number of issues.
They gave different perspectives on how they thought possible merger of the town and city of Plattsburgh might play out.
Renadette said the city would reap most of the benefits and not really experience any negatives from such a move. He doesn’t see the need for the town having its own paid police or fire departments when State Police, the County Sheriff’s Department and volunteer fire departments do a great job.
Read said that if you look forward 50 to 100 years, it seems obvious the two municipalities will have to merge. It’s not whether it will happen but when it will happen, he said, so the discussions need to start.
There must be some way to indemnify the town from being held responsible for the city’s obligations if the move is made, Read said.
“Surely we can figure out a way to work with one level of government rather than two,” he said.
The candidates, who seek the seat now held by Sara Rowden, were asked how they feel about the county’s planned $42 million airport expansion.
Read said he favors doing an expansion to meet future needs all at once, rather than piece by piece. He said it would be less expensive to do it right the first time rather than go through multiple expansions.
Renadette said he would have preferred the county move more slowly. He said county residents could be left footing the bill if projected enplanements don’t pan out or if the Canadian dollar decreases in value.
The candidates both agreed the Clinton County Nursing Home has not always been profitable but disagreed about whether it should be operated by a private company.
Renadette said he is concerned about a loss of personal connections if a private company were to run the home.
Read said that, as more and more people live longer, it may become necessary to expand the facility, which the county probably can’t afford.
Both candidates said they believe Clinton County is business friendly.
Read said he saw that when he was starting the Champlain Wine Company business he owns in the City of Plattsburgh, which benefited from guidance from the Clinton County Health Department.
Renadette said that while the county is business friendly, perhaps it could rely more on the efforts of the North Country Chamber of Commerce and the Development Corp. He said there wouldn’t be as many new businesses in the region if the county weren’t business friendly.
In opening remarks, Renadette said he would bring nearly two decades of experience on the Plattsburgh Town Council to County Legislature.
“I can offer that experience to the residents of Clinton County,” he said.
Renadette also pledged to meet more regularly with the supervisors and councilors of the towns of Plattsburgh and Beekmantown, which are in District 4.
Read said he would continue to look for ways to attract young people to the area and ensure they stay, as he has through participation in the grassroots Vision2Action organization.
He would also look for alternatives to raising property taxes, he said, which are rapidly making the region more difficult to promote.
“There are things we can do to make government more efficient,” Read said.
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