SARANAC LAKE - Harrietstown supervisor candidate Tom Catillaz isn't backing down from his criticism of the current town leadership.
The Enterprise asked Catillaz to respond to accusations made Thursday by town board members, including his opponent in the race, town Councilman Bob Bevilacqua, that he and his supporters have been spreading misinformation and half-truths about the town's management of the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear, the adjacent business park and the town's financial picture.
"The proof is in the pudding," Catillaz said. "What is in the industrial park? There's 100 acres. What's there? The airport has to break even. I'm sure it can be profitable. The people are putting a ton of tax dollars into that airport to keep it going, and that's got to stop. I don't know how they think it's responsible to run $325,000 in the red."
(Enterprise file photos)
The town board specifically called out Catillaz, a current village trustee and former village mayor, on some of his ideas to increase revenue at the airport, like leasing land for hangars and experimenting with fuel prices. Town officials said those are things they've tried in the past or are already doing.
Asked what different ideas he has for the airport, Catillaz responded by saying, "I can stop the bleeding; I know I can.
"They obviously aren't doing the right thing on fuel prices. I called all the airports in Northern New York. We're tied for the highest prices in jet fuel. How can you be competitive when you're the highest?"
Actually, the airport isn't tied for highest jet fuel prices in the region, according to airport Manager Corey Hurwitch and a review of fuel prices on the website www.airnav.com. Hurwitch told the Enterprise that the price of Avgas, another kind of fuel sold at the airport, was tied for highest several weeks ago when he spoke with Catillaz over the phone, but prices have fluctuated since then.
Town board members had panned Catillaz for not meeting with Hurwitch or coming to town board meetings to get a better understanding of how the town is handling various issues.
Catillaz said Friday that he does want to meet with Hurwitch. He said the town's website has been the source for some of the facts and figures he's put out during the campaign. He agreed that it's important to attend the town's board meetings but added that it's "easy to get lulled into their slowness."
As for the business park, the town board said Thursday that further development of the property has been slowed by the lack of state Adirondack Park Agency-approved shovel-ready sites. The town finally got seven shovel-ready sites approved by the APA in June. Now it plans to develop a business and marketing plan for the business park, although there are questions about whether that should be done by the town board or an outside group or agency.
Catillaz said he simply doesn't buy the town's explanation for its lack of progress on the park, which was created in the mid 1990s but only has two businesses.
"Nothing seems to be happening," he said. "They should be doing something. Get moving. It's been twenty years and there's two places in there. Push it, get going on it, do it. Don't sit back and let another 20 years go by."
Should Catillaz win the one-year supervisor term on Nov. 6, he'd have to work with the board members he's now butting heads with. He said that isn't a big concern.
"I don't have any bad feelings about any of those people on the board," Catillaz said. "I know them, I respect them all, and I know I can work with them. I'm not trying to embarrass anyone, I'm not trying to pick a fight, I only wish good things for the town. I'd like to see things move ahead and I'd like to see the taxes come down."
Bevilacqua said Thursday that some of the rhetoric from Catillaz and his supporters is "starting to get a little nasty." Town board members also speculated that other people in the Catillaz camp, not necessarily Catillaz himself, may be calling some of the shots in his campaign, though they wouldn't name names. Many of the press releases sent by the Friends of Tom Catillaz have come to the Enterprise from village Mayor Clyde Rabideau.
Asked how much of a role Rabideau is playing in his campaign, Catillaz would only say, "I know who this is coming from and I don't want to go there. It doesn't matter."
Village Trustee Paul Van Cott, one of Catillaz's supporters, said there are a lot of people involved in each candidate's campaign. He noted that Bevilacqua is working with local Republicans like Ray Scollin and Keith Wells to formulate and distribute his campaign platform.
"You have teams in both camps working with the candidates and helping them, but ultimately it will be the candidates who will be speaking for themselves," Van Cott said. "I think Tom has a campaign based on facts. The town's record speaks for itself. There are fine people on the town board, but as a village trustee I have more confidence Tom Catillaz will be someone we can work with and will work hard to get things done there."
(Editor's note: This article has been amended to include Hurwitch's correction of Catillaz's claim regarding airplane fuel.)
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.