Hoosick Falls Elects New Mayor
The Rensselaer County Village of Hoosick Falls Board of Trustees will have two new faces after candidates ran unopposed Tuesday. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports the newcomers hope to move the village past looming environmental issues.
Over the last year and a half village board meetings in the small community of Hoosick Falls have been packed as officials have navigated through contamination issues.
Facilities owned — past and present — by companies Honeywell and Saint-Gobain have been linked to the PFOA contamination in water supplies. More recently, chemicals were found at Honeywell’s former John Street facility.
On Tuesday night villagers elected Rob Allen, who ran unopposed, to serve as mayor. Mayor David Borge did not seek re-election.
Allen, a music teacher at Hoosick Falls High School, says his main priority is bringing truth about the contamination to the public.
“As we tackle the PFOA situation, as we tackle the negotiating with Saint Gobain and Honeywell, as we look into the John Street sitatuition with Honeywell, that’s sort of priority number one for me, is getting the information out there,” said Allen. “Now, obviously, you can’t share everything, especially the negotiation process, but just the fact that people feel like they know what’s going on, I think is going to speak volumes and help people to relax and know that we’re looking into this and taking care of it.”
Over the last year, Allen has been seen frequently at village board meetings questioning trustees over the handling of the situation. He had advocated for the recent tabling of a settlement agreement between the village and Saint-Gobain and Honeywell over costs associated with the contamination crisis.
At a board meeting in late February, outgoing Mayor Borge was the only one of the seven-member village board to reject tabling the agreement. He also warned the public that the village could face significant costs without a settlement in place and taking out a loan to cover expenses.
“We won’t be making a loan tonight or tomorrow, but it is a cumbersome and time-consuming process,” warned Borge.
At the same meeting, Deputy Mayor Ric DiDonato, who voted for tabling the agreement, also cautioned the incoming mayor.
“But, let me say right now, our next administration has absolutely no experience either. I’m putting my faith in you. That you will be able to do a better job than I have been able to do on this. You have my support,” said DiDonato.
Another new face on the board will be Brian Bushner, who ran alongside Allen. Bushner, who grew up in Hoosick Falls, also works at the high school as Community Information Officer. He said he will use his time on the board to find more ways to cover expenses as the village continues its negotiations.
“One of the things that we are hoping we can have a fresh start with is the state; with the governor’s office, with state agencies. It’s a new administration, we want a fresh start. The governor recently said there’s help available but nobody’s asked. Well, we certainly want to ask,” said Bushner.
Allen and Bushner also say they want to focus on economic development in a community that has been thrust into the headlines for the last year-and-a-half.
“And that’s a big hurdle to get over. How do you convince people to come buy a house here or invest in a business here when we’ve been overshadowed by environmental issues,” said Bushner.
Two unopposed incumbents were also re-elected, Robert Ryan and Kevin O’Malley.