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Board candidates lay out priorities

Dems diverge on the details, agree change needed on budget

Bethlehem Democratic primary candidates squared off at a forum on Sept. 4 sponsored by the League of Women Voters and Spotlight Newspapers. John Cunningham and Bill Reinhardt answered questions on a variety of topics related to the town and politics.

Bethlehem Democratic primary candidates squared off at a forum on Sept. 4 sponsored by the League of Women Voters and Spotlight Newspapers. John Cunningham and Bill Reinhardt answered questions on a variety of topics related to the town and politics. Photo by John McIntyre.

— Reinhardt said sharing services is a proven way to save money and should be looked at not just within the town’s departments, but between different municipalities. Cunningham agreed that can be done, but added the process has proven difficult to implement.

Neither candidate presented specific budget cuts when asked, but Cunningham said he would not support further cuts to the police department, saying it is “imperative” the department is staffed appropriately to ensure public safety. Reinhardt said attrition could be used if necessary, but he “would need to be convinced.”

“There was some interesting information in reference to the types of calls received (by the department) and the need to send police to all of them,” he said. The town budget committee has recommended police not be dispatched to certain calls, such as vehicle lockouts.

Agreement on need for investment, but what kind?

To reinvigorate economic investment, Cunningham said he would once again focus his attention on the Selkirk Industrial Yard. He also suggested the town create a general environmental impact statement for the area to help attract interest from outside companies. He said he is opposed to giving retail businesses tax abatement deals.

Reinhardt had similar comments, but said he would not second-guess the work of the Industrial Development Agency as Vista is now taking off. He said it is important for the public to understand that the global economy is changing to green initiatives and suggested the focus be put on revitalizing local agriculture so those businesses will not leave.

Neither Cunningham nor Reinhardt said they would support a proposal to build a waste-to-energy gasification plant on land near the Port of Albany. Reinhardt said a similar type of plant that does not use combustion might be right for the area and residents should keep an open mind in the future about recycling, whereas Cunningham said he does not believe claims from the developer because the technology is unproven.

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