Peter Crummey takes over as Colonie Town Supervisor
Among local government leadership changes with the new year, Peter Crummey is taking over as Colonie town supervisor. The Republican replaces Democrat Paula Mahan as the leader of the Capital Region’s largest suburb. Mahan, in office since 2008, did not seek reelection. Crummey, a town judge who stepped down to run for supervisor, beat Democrat Kelly Mateja in November. Crummey spoke with WAMC’s Jim Levulis on Friday, ahead of his swearing-in New Year’s Day.
Crummey: I enter serving as Colonie town supervisor with tremendous excitement. But as we know, it is not without significant challenges on many levels. And in addition to what I would like to do at day one, and is what I've told the residents that I intended to do, during the course of my campaign, is to a rollout of a more ambitious road repair schedule. As you may know, the town has approximately 350 miles worth of roads. And we have an obligation to maintain those roads. And I believe one of the single largest issues that was presented to me as I moved door to door during the campaign, and as a town resident for my entire life, was road maintenance. So they first I've already let the highway department know and the Commissioner of Public Works that we will be increasing the miles of roads to be repaired in 2022. It's very exciting. I've talked to the controller, as well, and the financial people currently at Town Hall, to advance to me how we can make that happen under the current budget, and I believe that that's exactly what we're going to be able to do big work for us. Obviously, in addition, Colonie remains a great place to live, work and play, we will be certainly maintaining our level of public safety. And we always want to maintain our potable water supply and maintain our pure water department as well our sanitary sewer system. And lastly, of course, I've let everyone know, one of my priorities is the maintenance and enhancement of our parks. And I've got some plans already developed for the north park along the Mohawk River where we enjoy waterfront right on the Mohawk River, and how to reenergize our waterfront edge out there and reenergize that beautiful park setting along the Mohawk River.
Levulis: Yeah, if I remember correctly this summer the boat launch on the Mohawk River, it was pretty overgrown in terms of getting boats out.
Crummey: Jim, you're absolutely right. And I actually was out there a number of different times and actually did a campaign video in connection with that. Sadly, over the years, the boat launch that was available to Colonie town residents has since been overgrown and not maintained. And some of the problems exist through the sediment that has collected along the banks of our water line. And the water chestnuts and other outgrowths that have made it really impossible to have any boat launched in the area. The dock is gone. There's no dock, I asked where it was, and I believe it's in cold storage somewhere. But we can revitalize that. And I'm going to ask the state of New York, obviously they are ultimately responsible for the Mohawk River, if they’d come on in and help us dredge that area so we can once again offer the town residents the opportunity to launch their boats.
Levulis: At the outset of the conversation, you mentioned the challenges the town faces. COVID-19, not just something that the town faces but our nation. What are your plans for distributing COVID-19 test kits, the supply that the town had available this week, lasted only a few hours after the pickup details were announced.
Crummey: And I understand that and I was given an update by the current administration on Monday as to how they planned on distributing both the 1,600 test kits and the 25,000 KN95 mass. And obviously, you know that distribution was effective. But like the rest of the country, it seems like not enough. We as the town of Colonie, we are a subdivision of Albany County and we have an Albany County Health Department and I will be working closely with them and our county executive [Dan] McCoy in distributing and getting more of a share of these very important test kits for all of our citizens as we move forward. And it's just that it's you know, working cooperatively with other levels of government and we demonstrated the capacity to work cooperatively with all parties in connection with my 21 years of service as a town judge. And we'll do the same here. And I look forward to working with our county officials who maintain a county health department to make sure that we're on the cutting edge of what is necessary and what can be provided to the town of Colonie.
Levulis: You mentioned that cooperation between different levels of government, now Colonie is the region's largest suburb, about 85,000 people. But you've noted in the past, when you include those who work, shop, travel through the town, the daytime population can be nearly you know 250,000 people. Now that's putting it on the scale and even beyond the region's cities. Have you had a chance to speak with neighboring area leaders? You know, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Albany County Executive Dan McCoy as you take office.
Crummey: Not yet in connection with how we will advance our programs collectively. We already have some shared services agreements, not only with the state of New York, for instance, in the Department of Transportation, but other agreements that can be readily made with the county in connection with roadwork, but it is a Capital Region and Colonie is certainly at the table. And I look forward to working with them as well. I mean, every municipality has their own challenges and their own characteristics. And so there may be priorities in certain municipalities, which may be different in adjoining municipalities. But nonetheless, we're all in the same boat as we're trying to move forward to serve the citizens within our municipality. And I look forward to a cooperative relationship, as we develop that, on behalf of the citizens, not only of the town of Colonie, but the greater Capital Region.
Levulis: The Colonie town board has voted to ban onsite consumption of recreational marijuana but allow retail shops in the town. Do you support that approach?
Crummey: Yes. I was at the public hearings that the town board conducted last fall, where they ultimately arrived at allowing the dispensaries and but not at this time allowing a marijuana lounge or a cannabis lounge. And that vote was based in part by testimony provided by the then police chief and saying that, you know, it's too difficult now to actually do testing of driving while ability impaired to do to drugs and without the technology to make sure that our streets remain safe. The recommendation was not to allow the onsite consumption lounges. And I think that makes sense as a judge for 21 years presiding over hundreds if not thousands of DWI cases and DWAI cases, due to drugs, the testing for alcohol has been refined to such a degree that it has a better sense of determining intoxication. But for other types of drugs, it's much more involved typically involving a blood draw. So in this particular case, I think it's too difficult now to manage that kind of enforcement. And I believe the town board did the right thing. In the state of New York, we have over 1,500 municipalities, and over 900 of them have already decided the way the town decided last fall to allow the store but not the onsite consumption.
Levulis: And towns are allowed to opt back in for onsite consumption. Would you support that move in the future?
Crummey: Well, it all depends on the facts and circumstances presented at that time. I do realize that that town could opt in at a later date. And as a judge, I look at most situations the way I did as a judge, you collect the facts, you determine credibility, and you make a decision. So we're a ways away from receiving, you know, the facts necessary to make that decision at this time. But I'm always, you know, happy to, you know, receive the facts as the world turns.
Levulis: There's also legislation in Colonie to extend the terms of supervisor and clerk from two years to four years. If approved, it would not impact your term. But do you support moving it from two to four years?
Crummey: Long overdue. And it's funny that you brought that up. Of course, I came to town hall 41 years ago, while a student at Albany Law School. I was an intern in the town attorney's office. And upon graduation, I was made a deputy town attorney. During my service, my full time service then in the town attorney's office, I was asked to prepare a memo in connection with how it could be done. And the memo I prepared and submitted to the town attorney, which was then of course reviewed with then Supervisor Fred Field, so that they could see the steps that are necessary. It is a multi-step process as you know. First step is for the town board to adopt a local law, expanding the term from two to four years. That was actually done in earlier this month [December]. The next stop is for the voters to decide next November as a ballot proposition whether they too support the recommendation of the town board. And if they do, when the supervisor race comes back up for election in November 2023, whoever is chosen by the voters to serve in that capacity will then have a four-year term. I believe it's vital to the progress of the town of Colonie. The town board has four years, town judges have four years, receiver of taxes enjoys those expanded terms. And in a town like you said nearly 85,000 people to think that I haven't been sworn in yet. Tomorrow, of course at noon time I'll be sworn in on January 1. And in 13 months or 14 months, I have a petition in my hand seeking reelection. It's a lot when you're trying to manage a corporation which has a $105 million budget this year that I've inherited from the prior town board and to manage that and then to also have the sidetrack of seeking reelection within 13 or 14 months. It's time that Colonie does move forward. And I was pleased to see that not only Democrat Paul Mahan, our outgoing supervisor, who brought this to the table on her last month of office is advocating for it. And Mary Brizelle, the former Republican Town Supervisor, testified at the public hearing that she too believes is the right thing to do. And collectively, those two people probably served as town supervisor for 28 years collectively. And for them to both come from both sides of the aisle to say this is the right thing. I agree with them.
Levulis: Putting the cart before the horse here a little bit. Do you expect to be on the ballot in November 2023?
Crummey: Lord willing, yes.
Levulis: Finally is there anything that you would like the residents of Colonie, the residents of the Capital Region, to know as you take over as the new supervisor of the town of Colonie?
Crummey: Well, I certainly first and foremost, thank the citizens of the town of Colonie that showed their confidence in me to carry the supervisor mantle as we move forward. I've had the great opportunity to serve our town for 41 consecutive years in a variety of offices most recently as Colonie town judge for 21 years. And as a native of Colonie, I can't think of anything more exciting right now. That as we enter into the new year, that I have been chosen by the town to serve them in that capacity. And I want all of our town residents to know that as I set out to meet the challenges ahead, they should know that my fortitude is maintained by their continued support of my efforts on their behalf. I'm very thankful for the opportunity that they have provided me.