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Haskell faces challenge for Thurman supervisor

THURMAN Thurman Supervisor John Haskell has an opponent this year who wants his job. Haskell, who has been supervisor for 10 years, said he enjoys his job immensely. Im always available, Im in the office every day and people can always call me there or at home, he said. The biggest issue facing Thurman is assessments and Haskell has tried to wrestle with that issue. Its regulated by the state so Ive worked with Teresa (Sayward) and Betty (Little) to try and fix the problem, Haskell said. I would like to see a situation here like they have in Florida where an assessment cant go up more than 3 percent as long as the same person owns the property. Now, an assessment can double if people in your neighborhood sell their home for an outrageously high price. Haskell said the town tax rate is relatively low, but the school tax is what burdens Thurman taxpayers. The supervisor and town board cant do anything about that except to vote on the budget, just like everybody else, he said. Haskell said he normally visits every home in town during a campaign and if the residents are out he returns again and if they are still not home he leaves a letter. I havent been to a single house this campaign, he said. Its not that I dont think the taxpayers are important, but right now, my daughter is more important. His daughter, Hillary, was diagnosed with large cell lymphoma and Haskell and his wife, Kathy, have been with her every step of the way through biopsies, blood work, x-rays and other tests. Haskell encourages residents to attend town board meetings so they can see how the town is run. There are so many rumors that people listen to, if they just came to a meeting, they would see how things are run instead of listening to rumors, he said. Haskells opponent, Randall Oppitz, has owned a consulting company for the past 25 years. My field of experience is energy and healing, he said. Ive lived in Thurman for almost 10 years. In that decade, Oppitz said hes been to many town meetings and feels that the people who come to them dont necessarily understand the process they are witnessing. Many decisions are made in back rooms, Oppitz said. The major issue in this town is that it has been divided for a long time, almost like the Hatfields and the McCoys. I come as a peacemaker, Im not on any one side. Oppitz said that Thurman has no plan for the future. Its being run by the seat of its pants, he said. Theres no dialog. Changes in administrations bring opportunities for dialogue, he said. He wants to involve residents and stakeholders in the development of a plan for the future of Thurman. He wants to change the format of town meetings, with more discussion and involvement with residents. Ive been going through the voter list, and Ive found hundreds who say they dont vote because nobody listens, he said. Oppitz says the property tax in town is very high and hes been involved in a dispute on his own property. Our property taxes are much higher than everyone else in the area, he said. We have all kinds of assessment issues, my own property was assessed at four times the purchase price. Ive been fighting Haskell and (Edward) Binder for eight years. Oppitz said he cant make any promises to lower taxes, but he wants to level the playing field. Our deliberations on land use, spending and taxes must be open to public scrutiny and comment, he said. The facts and the policies that drive them must be made transparent and understandable to our citizens. Oppitz said he feels passionate about the town,and sees lots of things going for the town. It could be so much more, he said. We need to quit complaining and do something about it.

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