Republican Joe Croce is seeking a third term as town supervisor. Standing in his way is Democrat Juan Figueroa, who is also on the ‘People of Plattekill’ line.
Croce began his political career in Plattekill in 2010 as a Town Councilman. He became the Deputy Supervisor for Bruce Loertscher and upon his passing in 2013 Croce was appointed to the position of Supervisor. He is now running for a full third term and will be on the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines this November.
Croce has worked on five town budgets “and we have not had a tax increase in the Town General fund in any of those budgets. I take that very seriously. We’ve kept the taxes down and have not cut back on services or laid anybody off.” He said it is frustrating to hear people say they can’t stay in New York because of the taxes, however, he points out that most of the tax bill is made up of school taxes.
Croce said he worked “pretty hard” with the Veterans Committee to secure the grant for the Memorial at the Town Park. He said the town has also expanded their recreation program and passed a new solar law for the town.
Croce said improvements have been made to the town hall – two new bathrooms, an enlarged court office section and new security cameras. Ultimately, a new town hall is needed but Croce stressed that he does not want to put that burden upon the taxpayers. Instead, he would look for any grants available for a project of that size and scope. If this came to fruition at another location he would re-purpose the old town hall, promising not to abandon it. He would establish a committee to discuss ways to make this happen; “that would be a sensible approach to build a new town hall.”
Croce wants to establish an expedited site plan review “to address some of the problems we’ve had with agri-tourism.” He recently attended a four hour class on how towns can review and regulate these kinds of enterprises, such as the tourism events that are held at Hurd’s Farm and the hosting of weddings on local farms. He acknowledged that getting code regulations right is a time consuming process.
“I know people tend to be impatient [but] I’m the type of person that if we’re going to do something, I’m going to do my best to make sure we don’t leave any stone unturned and make sure that it is something good that we are going to be putting in our code,” he said.
Croce believes in growth but it should be ‘smart growth,’ such as the recent additions of Dunkin Donuts, a second Dollar General store and a local landscaping business in town. He said Ultra Seal took over a vacant building that had been previously used for apple production.
“Obviously this helps people in what they pay in taxes, but it doesn’t happen overnight, but I think we are making progress in that area,” he said.
Croce said he would like to see an industrial park built in town, a complex he considers as smart growth.
“I think that would be much better than having numerous commercial businesses right along Route 32. I don’t think people driving on a main road would like to see a factory or a manufacturing business. I would envision an industrial park with one main entrance and have your various endeavors down inside the industrial park,” he said. “I have no trouble with encouraging that, I think it makes sense.”
Croce said he has enjoyed being the Supervisor of Plattekill.
“I would like to continue. I know not everybody is happy with some of the things I’ve done; I can’t make everybody happy; all I would say is that if something didn’t get done it’s not for lack of trying.”
Figueroa graduated from Wallkill High School, Class of 1983. He is a retired U.S. Marine and a Chief Warrant Officer for 22 years and is a Gulf War Veteran. He also served as a NYS Trooper/BCI Investigator for 25 years. In this capacity he was an Academy Instructor and a special investigator involved in international narcotics and money laundering, auto theft, joint terrorism, public corruption and organized crime.
Figueroa said he wants to make the application and planning process a little easier for prospective business that are seeking to establish themselves in Plattekill.
“I would start a task force with those businesses that are already presently in town and ask them how they made it here, what made it so difficult to open up a business here in the Town of Plattekill and how do we make it easier for small businesses in Plattekill,” Figueroa said. “I would also look at businesses that intended to open up in Plattekill and they were unsuccessful and ask them why that was and to figure out a way to make it a little more business friendly.”
Figueroa said he would try to get Republicans and Democrats to put aside their political differences and work together for the betterment of the town.
“Everyone has a plan to make the town better but it seems the folks that are in office now haven’t done anything,” he said. “Just walk into the town hall, that’s the people’s house and I think its time for a change. I think its time that we revive Plattekill. That’s why I decided to run.”
Figueroa said the operation of town government needs to be more open and transparent. He said a person he knows who works for the town recently told him they were afraid to speak with him for fear of being terminated from their job.
“I was amazed by that reaction to be quite honest. Here we are in 2017 and something like that is going on. I don’t care what political affiliation you have, if you’re qualified to do the job, then the job is yours; it has nothing to do with politics,” he said.
Figueroa said he brings his experience of serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and in Law Enforcement and life lessons from traveling around the world.
“I bring diversity to the town and a sense of renewal. My heart is behind this and I do it for the people of Plattekill, I don’t do it for myself. There is no personal gain here other than to help the people and make this a better town. I think the town can be better.”
Figueroa said Plattekill needs to create an overall vision in order to avoid the developmental pitfalls of having two of the same businesses in town, such as the Dollar General stores. To add to the problem, Plattekill has three fire departments, four school districts and four different mailing addresses.
“There is no sense of pride of being someone who lives in this town,” he said. “My plan is to figure out a way to get people to work together and understand that they are all part of this town, that they belong to the Town of Plattekill. A better cohesion is what I want to do.”
Figueroa said it is time to make people realize that Plattekill is a great town to live in.
“We can make it better if we sit down and talk about it, get a game plan and work together regardless of political affiliations,” he said.
Voting will take place on Tuesday, November 7. between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. Because of the temporary closing of the Route 32 bridge, district 4 voters who normally vote at the Plattekill Firehouse, will vote at the Modena Firehouse this year.
By Mark Reynolds