Wilmington board discusses election, ROOST, etc.
WILMINGTON — While the national mood remained tense and unsettled on Thursday evening, Wilmington’s monthly town council meeting — attended by five town officeholders, two town employees, and six members of the public — provided a starkly different portrait of the democratic experience.
The meeting was friendly, relaxed and characterized by semi-frequent detours into good-natured teasing and laughter.
According to the unofficial results reported by the Essex County Board of Elections, 316 Wilmington residents voted for Joe Biden and 261 picked Donald Trump, a continuation of a pattern that goes back at least as far as 2004. In 2016, Hillary Clinton narrowly carried the small mountain town, Wilmington’s voters twice backed Barack Obama by wide margins, and in 2004, Democrat John Kerry won Wilmington by 37 votes.
However, Republican state Senate candidate Dan Stec also carried Wilmington, tallying 299 votes to Democrat Kimberly Davis’ 258. In the race for state Assembly, the town’s voters were evenly split, with 273 casting votes for eventual winner Matt Simpson and 273 choosing Democrat Claudia Braymer.
“I don’t think this was a Republican-Democrat thing,” said town Supervisor Roy Holzer. “Biden did win Wilmington. Dan Stec won Wilmington as well. That’s a testament to Wilmington’s citizens. They went all over the ballot. It wasn’t just straight across [party-line voting]. It wasn’t a Republican win. It wasn’t a Democrat win. People are pretty independent thinkers here in Wilmington.”
Highway Superintendent Louis Adragna, currently serving out an unexpired term after being appointed by the town council, was unopposed in his bid to keep the job. He noted that he received more votes than Holzer; 435 people voted for Adragna. Holzer, running in 2019 to regain a job he held in the 1990s, only got 421 votes.
“Louie, it’s good to be loved,” said Holzer. “You can’t keep everyone happy. You’ll see. When I first got into this, a wise man told me, ‘Friends come and go in politics, but enemies accumulate.'”
Bed tax funds
The board discussed its plans to allocate $20,000, called the Community Enhancement Fund, that it recently received from the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism as a result of a bed tax increase that went into effect earlier this year.
Holzer said he hoped to put some of the money toward the ongoing improvements at the Preston Activity Field, a large field near the center of town that will eventually be the site of a memorial to former town Supervisor Randy Preston.
The town council also voted to distribute $2,500 from the fund to the Barkeater Trails Alliance (BETA) to support the group’s efforts to continue building and maintaining mountain biking, cross-country skiing and walking trails in town. Holzer said BETA has “done a lot to make Wilmington the mountain biking capital of the Adirondacks. It’s been a great organization for our community.”
ROOST, a non-governmental entity that receives millions in bed tax funds annually, has received some pointed questions and criticism in recent months. On Thursday, Holzer discussed ROOST’s role in the region.
“ROOST plays a vital part in terms of bringing Essex County together,” the supervisor said. “I’m happy with ROOST. They’re always trying to have more dialogue. We just had [Whiteface KOA manager] Chip Grundon appointed to the board. I served on that board briefly. They’ve always reached out to Wilmington.”
“A lot of times, they’re doing stuff that people running businesses don’t have time to do,” Holzer added, responding to a question from the public. “ROOST contributes like $15,000 to the operation of our visitors bureau. They take care of all of our website development and maintenance. Every time we pick up the phone and ask them for something, they help us out. ROOST gave us funds for the bike fest, for the Festival of Colors. They’ll work with you. If there was something specific that you, as a citizen of the town, wanted to do, they would more than likely work with you.”
No members of the council disagreed with Holzer’s assessment.
“They’re here for the community and the county,” said Cliff Holzer Jr., the supervisor’s nephew and the owner of the Little Super Market. “They do a good job.”
Holzer again addressed the perceived inadequacies of the phone system in the town’s community center.
“We’re not being taken care of by Frontier [Communications],” he said. “Of course, they’re under bankruptcy.”
Members of the board and the public echoed Holzer’s opinion.
Code Enforcement Officer Doug Nemec reported that he issued nine new building permits in the past month and that there are more than 40 open building permits.
“We’re definitely growing,” said Holzer, responding to a question after the meeting. “The tax base has definitely grown. Unfortunately, it’s made property around here even more pricey.”
Among the final topics the board discussed was the Wilmington Community Christmas Celebration at Santa’s Workshop, which will be held on Dec. 11 this year and will conclude as it has in previous years: with thousands of dollars’ worth of fireworks rocketing off the side of Whiteface Mountain, booming and echoing above the town, and briefly illuminating the surrounding valleys.
The fireworks are funded by donations.