Questions about yards littered with junk and the need to attract new businesses dominated Port Henry's village election candidates forum.
All seven office-seekers — two for mayor and five for trustee — came to the Port Henry firehouse recently to talk about themselves and field questions from the 30 people in attendance.
The forum, sponsored by community group pH7, started with incumbent Mayor Ernest Guerin defending his lack of office hours at the Village Hall.
He said that because of his job at a Plattsburgh auto dealership, he is not available during the day, but he returns phone calls if messages are left for him.
"I work 8 to 5 every day, and the village (hall) is open 8 to 4. I'm just a phone call away."
He said his appointed deputy mayor, Village Trustee John "Jack" Sheldon, is at the Village Hall every day.
"If he's (Sheldon) not sure, he calls me and asks me my opinion," Guerin said.
Sheldon, also running for re-election, said he puts in long hours.
"I meet with the village (Public Works) crew and superintendent every day. I meet with the mayor at least twice a week, and we talk over things."
'TAXES TOO HIGH'
Mayoral candidate Frank Slycord, who said earlier that he'd keep daily office hours, believes the mayor should work to keep property taxes down.
"We've seen nothing but a steady increase in the tax rate in the Village of Port Henry. There's out-of-control spending of the taxpayers' money."
Trustee candidate Frank Gilbo said the village fire station, a former garage, is in sad shape.
"Our firehouse is condemned, as far as I know. We can't get a grant to build a new firehouse? There's something wrong."
He said things need to change.
"We aren't going to bring new businesses here. The taxes are too high. I just think it's bad."
LAKE AN ASSET
Trustee candidate Staley Rich talked with residents when she took her petitions around.
"What kept coming up again and again was the appearance. My main goal would be to clean up the village."
Rich said the village's location on Lake Champlain is an asset they should exploit to attract visitors and new businesses.
Trustee candidate Ronald Nesbitt Jr. said he's heavily involved in the community.
"I ran for trustee because I'd like being a public servant. I feel we've got to look at all aspects to bring business to our community. Main Street's like a ghost-town now."
He said he'd work to keep village services affordable.
"I'm young and energetic. I'll work hard for everybody."
Trustee candidate Matthew Brassard said he thinks it's good for young people to be involved in local government.
"We need to give tax incentives for businesses to come here. We need to develop Main Street along the storefronts. If everybody works together, it can get done."
When the public was allowed to ask questions, pH7 member Linda Smythe wanted to know why no one was enforcing property maintenance codes in the village.
"We see broken and boarded-up windows and clutter. How will you help us spruce up the village?"
Guerin said he knows the village is lacking in that aspect.
"We are working on it. I know over time we can do it. We need to address one little problem at a time."
Slycord said the village would look much better if he were mayor.
"You come into the village either way (on Route 9N), and it's not an attractive sight. We need to get these properties cleaned up."
Dorie Michener asked what Slycord's plans are for the Village Department of Public Works.
"Nothing's off the table," Slycord said. "The employees need to be held accountable and responsible for their positions."
Michener began to criticize Slycord for plowing snow from his tavern parking lot across the adjacent street and was asked by moderator Jackie Viestenz to stop.
Resident Sandra Lovell wanted to know specifically how Slycord would reduce taxes if state mandates are responsible.
Slycord said he would go over the village budget line by line.
"The meetings I've been coming to I've never heard the words cut, diminish, decrease."
Guerin said they held off on buying new equipment in the last budget.
"We cut a lot of things. If there's a way to cut, we're going to do it."
The top two vote-getters will receive the two trustee seats. The election is noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday, March 15, at the village firehouse.
E-mail Lohr McKinstry at: firstname.lastname@example.org