THURMAN — Town spending, white space internet and transparency were among the hot issues debated Wednesday at a Thurman candidates forum.
More than 60 people attended the event, which was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Saratoga County and featured the two candidates for supervisor and five of the six candidates running for Town Board.
All five seats on the Town Board, including the supervisor, are up for election because of mid-term resignations. Incumbent Supervisor Cynthia Hyde is running on the Democratic line for re-election to another two-year term against Republican challenger Susan Shepler. Both candidates have independent minor party lines.
There are two four-year seats and two, two-year seats up for election. Incumbents Kathy Templeton, a Democrat, and Joan Harris, a Republican, are running for the four-year seats, along with Republican newcomer Douglas Needham.
The race for the two-year seat pits Republicans Brenda Ackley and Gail Seaman against Mary Eddy, who is running on the Integrity line. Ackley did not attend the forum.
Shepler, who spoke first in the supervisors debate by random draw, said she is running on a platform of fiscal discipline.
“I am concerned about the financial stability of the town of Thurman. I feel that the overspending that has occurred is out of control and I’d like to see it be reined in,” she said.
Shepler criticized the current board for decisions such as spending $600 per month to purchase roll-off trucks for the landfill, when she said it could have gotten it through the county for nothing through the state contract. Other examples she cited were hiring an outside accountant to straighten out the finances, purchasing new computer software and spending for outside attorney fees.
Shepler stressed her nine years of experience working in government accounting, including in the accounts payable department of a school district.
“We can work together and achieve great goals,” she said. “Improve on what we have, and we can make Thurman almost heaven again.”
Hyde said she jumped in with both feet after being appointed supervisor in February of this year, a few months after taking office on the Town Board following the resignation of Evelyn Wood.
“What can you expect out of me? Hard work, teamwork, reliability, honesty, transparency, loyalty and I won’t jump ship when the going gets rough, also known as dependability,” she said.
She pointed to her experience working for eight years as town clerk.
“I have very good understanding of how town government is supposed to work,” she said.
Hyde said the town hired an outside accountant at the advice of a state auditor because some of the accounts for capital projects had not been reconciled.
The candidates disagreed on whether they would sign the ethics and financial disclosure policy. Shepler would and Hyde would not.
“It prevents me from going out and making deals with whoever and whatever and getting kickbacks or anything like that. It’s to keep me honest,” Shepler said.
Hyde said she has no issue with the ethics, but balked at the financial disclosure.
“I do not believe it’s anybody’s business what my retired husband makes,” he said.
Both candidates agreed that more subscribers need to be signed up to make the white space internet project financial viable. Hyde said there do not seem to be enough potential subscribers in the area covered by the white space system.
Shepler said there are enough subscribers within the target market.
Among Hyde’s other priorities are to improve the flow at the landfill, establish a capital reserve fund to replace highway equipment, paint the Town Hall and refurbish the Harris House.
In addition, Shepler said the town needs to reinstate its procurement policy so it has a better idea of where the expenditures are going, and she said she would like to see a purchase order system implemented for all town departments.
In the Town Board race, Needham said he was running because he believes he has something to contribute.
“I’ve lived here my whole life. I’m here for the town, not the people who think they run the town,” he said.
Seaman said she is running because she believes there has been a lack of openness and integrity and the town needs fiscal discipline.
“We need to live within our means,” she said.
Harris said she is running to bring her experience in accounting, managing, personnel and negotiations.
“I’d like this town to be financially secure. I would like it to grow and I would like it to pull together more in a unified way,” he said.
Eddy said she has experience in her husband’s construction business and is responsible for dealing with customers, auditing and paying bills. She praised the job that Hyde and the town bookkeeper are doing.
“Cynthia Hyde and Debbie Runyon have worked diligently to unwind the financial web of discrepancy of the past,” Eddy said.
Templeton said the current board has restored “privilege of the floor” comments from the public, hooked up a new system to provide clean drinking water to homeowners affected by the contamination from the town’s old salt shed, and rehired Fred Engelmann, the former operator of the white space system. She stressed teamwork.
“We may not always agree and when we don’t, we must talk the issues at hand for the benefit of the town,” she said.
Needham and Seaman said they would sign the ethics and disclosure policy, while Eddy, Harris and Templeton would not, expressing concerns about the information that has to be disclosed.
In other issues, Eddy said she wanted to see restoration of the Harris House and maintenance needs addressed at the Town Hall.
Needham said he supported reorganization of the landfill.
Seaman wanted to make sure the town is following its procurement policy.
Templeton wanted to implement a purchasing order system for the highway department.
Harris said she would like to see the youth program expanded.
Town Clerk Susan Staples is running for re-election on the Democratic and Town Pride line against Rose Slemp on the Choice Party line. Slemp was unable to attend the forum.