A pair of familiar faces will be joined by a political newcomer as the Hamburg Republican Party has endorsed its candidates for the 2013 race for the Hamburg Town Board.
Incumbent Supervisor Steven Walters will be joined by incumbent Councilwoman Amy Ziegler and Larry Speiser.
Walters said one of the major reasons he has decided to seek re-election is simply to finish projects he has started.
“You take a look at what’s been accomplished,” Walters said, noting there are a number of projects in the works right now.
Among them include the Hamburg Public Library expansion project. It is a three-phase project that is expected to begin in June and be completed in 2014.
Also, the town recently reached an agreement with the Frontier Central School District which will allow the town’s recreation department, senior services and adult daycare to move into what is currently the Frontier Community Educational Center on Southwestern Boulevard. Walters said when the agreement was announced a few weeks ago that the town would assume control of the building around July 1, and he is hopeful that the three departments will be moved in by January of 2014.
And for the third year, the town will continuie to operate Woodlawn Beach State Park.
“This is an opportunity to help see those things to the finish,” Walters said.
Ziegler, like Walters, said she would like to see projects finished, and credited Walters for laying the groundwork on them even before she was first elected four years ago.
During her first term, she noted that it has been wonderful to see how much residents have embraced Woodlawn Beach as it is constantly packed with cars throughout the summer.
“It’s tremendously satisfying,” she said.
Ziegler is also excited at seeing the recreation, senior and adult daycare programs move into the Southwestern Boulevard facility. She believes it is vital to meet the needs of the seniors, as well as the youth, and this will allow the town to “maintain and grown the programs.”
Speiser said he plans to approach the board from a different perspective.
“I’m a business owner. I look at it from a business point of view,” Speiser said.
He believes Hamburg should be looked at as a model town in Erie County.
As a business owner, he realizes the difficult choices that go into making budget related decisions.
“I deal with budgets and cost reductions,” Speiser said, adding that his experiences as a business owner can be brought as a fresh perspective for the board.
Overall, he said he is happy with Walters and Ziegler, noting that he decided to run because he wants to be part of a “winning team.”
He believes as a business owner, he will be able to have a good working relationship with other business owners in the community.
Speiser also believes taking care of seniors in the community is important as well.
Walters said there are no other specific projects on the horizon, but said his first goal when he was elected as Supervisor in 2005 was a different kind of project.
“It was simply to get the spending under control. To get the taxes under control,” Walters said.
In recent years, he has dealt with another major issue, pension costs.
“The rates have absolutely ballooned and skyrocketed,” Walters said, noting that figure has jumped about $2.5 million over the last four or five years.
At the same time, he did not want to see the quality of life suffer and he said he has worked hard to maintain programs while keeping taxes from seeing a major increase.
Ziegler pointed out that if not for the pension costs – which the town can not control – there would have been no tax increases at all during the budget development in 2012.
“You have to constantly monitor the budget,” Ziegler said.
She also pointed to the marketing efforts of the town in helping promote assets such as Woodlawn Beach and the 18-Mile Creek Golf Course as a valuable tool to bring revenue into the town.
Walters said when he became supervisor, the golf course saw a deficit of $150,000. He instituted changes, created specials and renovated the club house. As a result, for four of the last five years, the “golf course was in the black.”
Ziegler also noted that the budget has another complicated component, which is the state funding allotted to the town as part of the funding for the Hamburg Casino.
This year, thanks to the efforts of state lawmakers, including State Sen. Mark Grisanti, the town’s portion of the funding increased over $122,000.
She said that money has been earmarked in the past to help with capital improvement projects throughout the town. After seeing the town lose more than $600,000 that it anticipated in revenue from the state two years ago, Ziegler said it is a challenge to try and budget the money in.
Speiser also pointed to healthcare as another critical issue that the town faces year to year, as rates continue to rise, and is worried how Obamacare will impact people in the coming years.
“I know how it affected businesses,” he said, noting that the impact has been less on him because he employs less than 50 people.
When he is making fiscal choices about his company, Speiser said he looks at a number of things.
“You look at the costs you have direct control over,” he said.
He pointed to pallets of paper as an example. By purchasing larger quantities he pays more up front, but it saves more in the long-haul.
Ziegler said the town has been able ot save money on healthcare costs by going to a single healthcare provider.
Speiser believes this way of thinking also is beneficial because he is a big proponent of providing a safe work environment.
He said by investing in high quality equipment and products, it has helped bring insurance costs down. He believes this way of thinking could be beneficial to the town.
“That helps all those insurance costs,” Speiser.
Another accomplishment Walters said he is proud of is the decrease in the amount of abandoned buildings. When he took over in January of 2006, he said 27 percent of town buildings were vacant. That number has reduced to 7 percent. This has been during a recession.
“We’ve made for the past six years... paramount that we direct businesses to our vacant buildings,” Walters said..
He said the town will always do what it takes to help businesses interested in moving into the town, with “just a little push to go into vacant buildings.”
Ziegler also pointed out that there is now “140 acres in Lake Erie Industrial,” which is pre-permitted and shovel ready for a business who wants to move in.
“We’ve been doing as much as we can to try and find a business to move in there,” Walters said, adding there has been “several nibbles,” but no deal yet.
He believes it is important to fix the problems already there, and said there has been very little construction from vacant land in recent years. Walters said the Lake Erie Commerce Center was born out of a need for additional industrial space.
Ziegler reiterated that she wants to continue to serve, in large part due to the leadership of Walters and his “tremendous hard work.”
She believes the town is in good shape financially and she is encouraged by the growth in services.
Speiser said people have wondered why he opted to run.
“People ask me why I want to do this,” Speiser said. “I want to be part of a winning team.”
Walters summed it up by simply adding he wants to finish the job he began nearly seven and a half years ago.
“There’s more to be done,” Walters said.
This is a historic year as for the first time, the entire three-person board will be elected after the board reduced from five members at the start of 2012. As a result, there are two four-year terms (supervisor and council) and one two-year term (the other council seat) up for grabs. The candidates must declare which seat they are running for.
Walters and Ziegler are seeking four-year terms, while Speiser is hoping to win the two-year term.