TUPPER LAKE - Three people are running for two village trustee seats this fall.
Incumbent Tom Snyder, a Republican, will attempt to defend his seat while political newcomers Ron LaScala, a Democrat, and Republican David "Haji" Maroun will also try for spots on the board.
The top two vote-getters will win seats at the village of Tupper Lake board room table for the next two years.
(Enterprise photos — Jessica Collier)
The candidates are presented here in alphabetical order by last name.
LaScala said he and some friends toyed with the idea of running for village trustee a few years ago, and he started going to a few village board meetings and paying more attention to local politics.
Then when his cousin Josh Peck died this summer after a car crash, he saw many young adults from 18 to 25 years old at the services and started to worry about the opportunities they would have in Tupper Lake.
"I was thinking, 'Wow, is there going to be anything left for them?'" LaScala said.
Then his thoughts shifted to his own daughters, who are 6 and 11 years old, and he decided he wanted to help create opportunities for them to stay in Tupper Lake when they grow up, if that's what they want.
LaScala is a 37-year-old delivery driver for Hyde Fuel.
Since he decided to run for office, he has been diligent about going to every local event and community meeting, and he's also been going door-to-door, trying to hit up as many neighborhoods of the village as he can.
"I have been doing a lot of work," LaScala said. "I'm not just throwing my name on a campaign sign and hoping to get elected. My heart's in it."
He said he can't get to everyone in the village, as much as he'd like to, but he's been giving out his phone number to taxpayers - it's 518-524-5107 - and asking them to call him if they want to share their opinions or concerns with him or to ask him questions.
"I want to know what people think," LaScala said.
If he gets elected, he promises he'll continue to be responsive to taxpayers. If someone asks him a question or shares a concern with him that he isn't familiar with, he promised he'll look into the issue and get back to that person with answers.
So far, he hasn't made a decision on where he stands on the railroad that runs through town. He's talked with Chris Keniston from the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates, a group that supports ripping up the train tracks in the state-owned corridor and replacing them with a multi-use trail. He has been trying to get more information from Next Stop Tupper Lake and other proponents of rehabilitating the rails and creating a trail alongside it, but he said he's found that those groups don't have as much information readily available.
"I don't want to form an opinion without having all the information," LaScala said. "It's a tough thing, because both sides are very passionate."
He likes the idea of revisiting the state unit management plan for the corridor, saying it will give each side a chance to air their full opinions before the state makes a decision. A couple of local municipalities, including the town of Tupper Lake, have passed resolutions recently asking the state to open the UMP and review it. Three others have gone further, asking the state to replace the tracks with a trail.
"I feel like it's a foregone conclusion that they're going to open it," LaScala said of the UMP.
The village of Tupper Lake won't vote on a resolution asking for the UMP to be opened until after the Nov. 6 election.
LaScala wants to see a new public safety building that would include space for the fire and police departments and the rescue squad.
"I'm going to do everything I can to push it forward," LaScala said.
He read through a copy of the feasibility study the village commissioned on the project this year, and he met with Trustee Rick Donah to learn more. He thinks the village can work to get the facility built at a reasonable cost, but it should be done soon because "the cost is just continually rising."
"This is to better the community," LaScala said. "It's essential that it gets done."
LaScala sees the Adirondack Club and Resort, a large-scale development planned for the Big Tupper Ski Area outside the village, as a way to open up opportunities in Tupper Lake.
"I think it's the best thing that's happened to Tupper in the whole 30 years that I've been here," LaScala said.
He sees a controversial Article 78 lawsuit challenging the state Adirondack Park Agency's decision as frivolous and said he's confident the APA will win.
LaScala said he wishes he could say he can reduce taxes, but he wants to be honest about it. He's not sure it will be possible since so much has been cut already.
"Our services have been cut to the bone in this community," LaScala said. "They really have."
He said the village Department of Public Works had around 15 employees when Superintendent Mike Sparks started, and now it's down to about five.
LaScala said it might be necessary to invest in the community now, working on infrastructure like roads and sidewalks and improving the local emergency services. That will make Tupper Lake more attractive to people who might want to invest in the community and move here, growing the tax base, LaScala said.
He likes the idea of investing in the Municipal Park when there's funding to do it.
"We probably have the most beautiful park in the Adirondacks," LaScala said.
He also wants to help find uses for the former Oval Wood Dish factory and the neighboring Ames plaza, which saw its cornerstone store Wise Buys close down in recent years.
LaScala said he would support the idea of merging the village and town as long as it can be done without firing or demoting anyone.
"I think that the taxpayers will end up out front in it," LaScala said. "It's a good thing; it's just figuring out how to do it where it's reasonable for everybody that's involved, because you're talking about people's families."
David "Haji" Maroun
Maroun is interested in being a village trustee because he wants to get more involved in the community - to "get out there more instead of sitting back and listening.
"I know I'm new at this, but I'm going to jump in and get my feet wet," Maroun said. "I'm there for the people; I'm not there for myself."
Maroun is a 43-year-old corrections officer at the state prison in Ray Brook. He's done some door-to-door campaigning and has gotten information from village Clerk Mary Casagrain on what the village has been working on recently.
With an aging mother and a 5-year-old son, Maroun said he wants to focus on issues for the youth and elderly of the community.
For local senior citizens, his main concern is that they need taxes to be kept low since so many of them are on fixed incomes. He doesn't want them to be priced out of the community where many of them have lived their whole lives.
"People with fixed income can't keep going on like this," Maroun said. "They don't get raises."
He'd also like to see the village help create activities for seniors. He likes the idea of opening a YMCA-type facility in Tupper Lake that would have an indoor pool and other things to get seniors moving and out and about.
"Wouldn't that be great in this village?" Maroun said.
For local youth, Maroun said he wants the village to take over the youth activities program now run by the town. He also wants to open an outdoor skating rink on the ball field at the Municipal Park on regular evenings in the winter. It's something the village used to do when he was growing up, and he has fond memories of all the local kids gathering at the skating rink every evening for a few hours.
He also wants to help expedite a plan to potentially open a beach at Flanders Park, next to the Municipal Park. The idea is now being studied, but Maroun said he will push for it.
"I've always said there should be a beach there," he said.
He likes that it would be centrally located rather than on the outskirts of town like the Little Wolf Beach; it would be easy for local kids to get to. Plus, if it's in a visible location like the center of town, it could get more tourists to stop there as they drive through and to spend more time in Tupper Lake.
"You've got to use your resources," Maroun said.
He wants to help draw tourists in other ways, too, through things like marketing the region's fall foliage views.
"There should be busloads of people staying here during the fall season," Maroun said. "We should be packed."
He also wants to help encourage snowmobiling through things like maps and other advertising, noting that Old Forge is buzzing with snowmobilers in the winter and they spend plenty of money there.
"This community's set up for it," Maroun said. "It's already ready to go. We're in the middle of everything, but in order to get that, we've got to push it, promote it."
Maroun has lived along the Adirondack Scenic Railroad corridor his whole life, and he hasn't seen the train running on it in years. He said it would be nice to have a trail alongside rehabilitated tracks, "but everything comes with a price tag." Because of that, he's unsure whether he supports Next Stop Tupper Lake's plan to try to do both. But he would "definitely like to see a trail there, that's for sure." He said he's not familiar enough with the issue to make a call on whether he would support opening the UMP for the rail corridor.
Maroun has been a firefighter for at least a decade. He believes the community needs to build a new fire station right away, before prices inflate even more, and he'd like to see it include as many different public safety departments as possible.
"We should've built the building 10 years ago, and now we're dealing with this where the figures are much higher," Maroun said. "We're going to eventually need a firehouse. The thing's falling apart."
He was a fan of the feasibility study the village recently commissioned on a new public safety building, and he said the village needs to do all it can to encourage taxpayers to vote in favor of the plan if it gets to the stage where there's a referendum on the cost of the facility.
He said he understands people are concerned about adding to their taxes, but village residents now pay 38 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value for fire protection, which he thinks is "pretty low" compared with other places around the state.
Maroun calls himself a big supporter of the ACR, calling the lawsuit challenging the resort's APA approval "bogus" and "absolutely ridiculous.
"Obviously someone has a grudge against Tupper Lake," he said.
He hopes to see the development bring more jobs to the region so his son and other local youth will have opportunities to stay in the area, if they choose, once they finish high school or college.
He noted that he also wants to help support small businesses, noting that they're disappearing fast.
Maroun said he likes the idea of sharing services between the village and the town, but he probably wouldn't be in favor of merging the two entities. But he would be open to studying it if locals were in favor of it.
"If it's going to save taxpayers money, I've got to look at it down the road," Maroun said.
Tom Snyder wants to be elected for a third term because there's "a lot of unfinished business," he told the Enterprise. "There's just a ton of things."
The Junction Pass project that would create a recreational trail from Tupper Lake's Junction neighborhood to the Park Street uptown area has been on tap for a few years now but is only just now approaching the construction phase.
He's also looking forward to working more on many planned improvements to the Municipal Park.
Snyder, 53, has run his own business, Tupper Lake Refrigeration, for about 15 years.
He doesn't follow the popular narrative of the Article 78 challenge of the ACR - that it is frivolous and shouldn't be allowed.
"It is their right to do that," Snyder said. "It might be all malarky, but they do have rights just like anybody else."
He noted that his position on that might get him bad marks in the election, "but it's the truth." He said he is in favor overall of the concept of the large-scale development.
He said he's had a hard time deciding where he stands on the railroad corridor. He said the people in favor of replacing the tracks with a trail have put out a lot of good information, "but the railroad people haven't done the same, so it's really hard to make a decision." He said that if he had to make a decision now, he would probably fall on the side of the trail advocates.
"They've done their homework," he said.
Snyder said he's walked the rails quite a bit and thinks they're in terrible shape, so he has a hard time believing the estimates from the railroad advocates for how much it would cost to rehabilitate the tracks.
Snyder said he would support the village passing a resolution to ask the state to open up the corridor's UMP.
Snyder said he looks forward to continuing work on a new fire station. He said it's clear that both the fire and police departments need new homes and that the rescue squad is growing out of its current building.
"We need to do something," Snyder said. "But whether the cost will be justified - that's the thing we have to look at."
He said that if a referendum on the cost of a new facility failed, the village would likely be stuck with fixing the current buildings the departments are in as well as possible, though that would get costly as well, and they could never be renovated enough to make them adequate.
Snyder said people should vote for him because he's fiscally responsible. He said the village board has kept tax increases low for the last four years, "and I would like to keep it that way."
The current budget, which the village board approved in May, raised the tax levy (the dollar amount raised in property taxes) by almost 10 percent over the prior fiscal year but, due to a town-wide revaluation, lowered the tax rate by almost 18 percent, to $13.19 per $1,000 in assessed property value. Village officials focused on the drop in rate rather than the rise in levy.
Snyder said he doesn't think other members of the board are as careful with budgetary issues as he is.
"I really don't think they're paying enough attention to what they're spending at this point," Snyder said.
He said taxpayers can trust him to stay thrifty.
"I spend their money like it was my own, which I'm very tight," Snyder said.
Snyder said he isn't good at tooting his own horn and prefers to do his job quietly.
"I run the village as a business, not a popularity contest," Snyder said.
He hasn't done a lot of campaigning for the election, largely relying on campaign interviews with the local media. He said people will decide whether to vote for him based on his record so far on the board.
"Basically, I'm just a boring guy who goes to work every day and gets the job done," Snyder said. "The country wouldn't run without people who do this in and out."
Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.