ELIZABETHTOWN — As the race for New York’s 21st grows increasingly ill-natured, it’s easy to forget that the sprawling district, which encompasses parts of 12 counties and covers some 16,000 square miles, faces real, concrete issues that demand leadership.
We asked Essex County lawmakers about the issues that are important to them and asked the four Congressional hopefuls where they stand on some of the issues.
While lawmakers differed on their preferred candidate, they also appeared to cross party lines and offered a kaleidoscope of non-partisan issues they hoped their future federal representative would address.
Lawmakers Gerald Morrow (Chesterfield) and Dan Connell (Westport), both Democrats, hoped to see an increase in federal funding for the district, like for water and sewer projects, said the former.
William Ferebee (Keene) and Randy Douglas (Jay), leaders of the towns most affected by Hurricane Irene in 2011, hoped for FEMA relief and more funding for infrastructure.
In Keene, Route 73 was washed out and isolated St. Huberts. That stopped all traffic south, the main route from Lake Placid. This put a stranglehold on the merchants in Keene Valley, said Ferebee. “Not only did they receive damage, but it cut-off of their bloodline."
Ferebee said the town was still not getting fully reimbursed from Irene due to a mixture of bureaucracy and sluggish decision-making.
“We have borrowed and paid for the repairs and we had to pay the interest back. This is a cost to the taxpayer and cuts out of other services that we can provide. We’re leery to move forward with other grants because we’re not sure if we’re going to get our money back.”
Douglas said one of the major issues facing Jay was funding infrastructure programs.
“One of the major issues we face is an increase in water and sewer,” said Douglas. “We need more money to help us all out. Bill Owens has been a big help. I hope whoever is elected will hear our local needs and be will be successful. You can’t put the costs of major infrastructure projects on the backs of the taxpayers.”