GLOVERSVILLE — Mayoral Candidate William Rowback Jr. sat down with The Leader-Herald on Wednesday to speak about the upcoming primary and about what he sees for a vision for the city four years from now under his leadership.
His interview is running alongside his competitor, and current mayor, Dayton King. The Leader-Herald asked both candidates similar questions about a variety of city issues.
The way the questions were asked did sometimes change to fit in with the ongoing conversation the interviewer had with both candidates. Each candidate was also asked an individual question about the city’s fund balance.
Some of the answers have been condensed due to space limitations.
Below are the questions and answers from the interview.
Mayor Dayton King
∫ What will be the biggest issue to face the city in the next four years?
“Without a doubt it will be continuing to provide services that people are use to. The last seven years we haven’t raised taxes, in fact we have decreased taxes a few times. We’ve added to our fund balance and over the next four years… where do we go to continue to provide services that people expect.”
King said over the next four years, the city needs to explore shared services with either the city of Johnstown or another willing partner such as Fulton County, in order to save money and still provide services the city needs.
“If [Johnstown is] not a willing partner, we will do it with the county. The taxes are high, we need the taxes to go down,” King said.
∫ How do you see in the next four years, your administration being able to introduce shared services?
King said the talk of shared services in Gloversville happened more than 10 years ago with former Mayor Sarah Slingerland and that he spoke out earlier this year about his wish to see more shared services between the Glove Cities.
“I will work with the city of Johnstown to say ‘What are you willing to do?’ With the county, to say what are we willing to do and just provide facts for people. We are going to be solvent, but that is never just OK for me, not in my personal life and not here,” King said.
He said the goal for consolidation could be made that would be implementable by 2030.
“But the plan will be assigned to where the people are out of it so we can be efficient and save the taxpayers dollars. If we don’t, we do have to lay people off. Instead, we’ll do it through attrition.”
King said since going from seven on staff in the fire department to five, two fires have happened on Park Street, and they were successfully fought with the help from an agreement with the city of Johnstown that sees two Johnstown firefighters come to Gloversville for emergency calls.
∫ What do you see as the biggest infrastructure needs to come out of here in the next four years?
King said there are many aspects of the city’s infrastructure that will be issues in the next four years. He said the sewer system, city streets and water are all things that would need addressing in the future.
“We are going to have these infrastructure issues going forward and it is not if, but when it is going to happen,” King said. “That is going to happen in every municipality, not only in Fulton County, not only in New York state, but across America. Unless you live in a new town or city, we’ve got real old infrastructure,” King said. “The state has put some money towards that. I think it’s all of it. It’s water, it’s sewers, it’s bridges.”
King said the city has been successful in applying for both state and federal grants to make improvements things such as the Hill Street bridge.
“There are a ton of projects that if they are out there we have applied for it, and we will keep doing that,” King said.
King said the city will continue to look at ways of funding infrastructure improvements including zero percent financing loans and state and federal grants.
∫ Do you think there is anything that can be done to keep open or improve the recreational facilities the city currently has?
“I think we are doing that. Darling Field, we put a huge investment in. We got an anonymous private donor to put money into the tennis courts. We’ve put swings back up. The other thing we are doing is putting cameras up. We’ve put cameras up by the cage [at Elk Street Park] we are going to put cameras by Little Huskie Field, Darling Field, Wohlfarth’s Pond. And I think that helps to deter crime and catch people that are vandalizing,” King said.
King said the decision to close Washington Street park happened because people kept vandalizing the park. He said it became a liability issue, which the city’s insurance carrier deemed a risk.
“We had no choice but to do that,” King said.
King said the recreation commission has also come back during his tenure. He said he would like to see more people join the commission.
“We are doing more events and getting more people to show up,” King said.
∫ What do you think you can do to help bring more businesses into the city, specifically into downtown?
King said the city is currently working on plans to help revitalize downtown.
He said there are a number of businesses that have just opened or are going to open including Cravings Bakery, a new butcher shop and others.
“I think now people are seeing that things are happening, and they want to be a part of it.”
King said the city can’t just build things like office and industrial parks and expect businesses to come. He said they need to be proactive in approaching companies.
King said finding people who want to start their own business and introducing them to resources such as grants and available funding, such as the Urban Development Action Grant money, will also help grow the downtown corridor and other areas of the city.
King said the city also needs to look at areas such as around the Walmart Supercenter to move businesses into. He said there is a possibility of a restaurant coming into one of the parcels up near the store.
“More people are buying buildings and opening them back up,” King said.
King said people like developer Scott Hohenforst, who has been investing in the city, and Downtown Development Specialist Jennifer Jennings, as successes in helping downtown grow and renovate.
∫ What can be done to bring potential residents into the city?
“My experience since April with real estate is that people love it here. People really do appreciate a small city. They’ve got lakes, they’ve got mountains, really just getting out there and letting people know we exist. Getting out there and partnering with the chamber, partnering with the CRG like we’ve been doing, people are coming. It doesn’t happen overnight. An entire city just doesn’t pack up and decide ‘We’re moving to Gloversville.’” King said. “It happens by referring and almost by ‘Hey have you checked this place out. You can buy a home for $200,000 and hey, maybe the taxes are high, but if you have a home like you do on Kingsboro [Avenue] in Saratoga, it is $600,000 and your taxes are $12,000. I think we are letting people know we exist and getting them here.”
King said downtown and city events are a good way to introduce people to Gloversville. He said when people come and see houses they can afford, the want to be in Gloversville. .
∫ What do you see as the city’s role in trying to help curb the opioid epidemic?
King said the city police have worked with state police and the Drug Enforcement Agency. In addition, the city police department currently has seven officers in training. He said the city is also working with Fulton County Health Director Irina Gelman on issues related to opioid abuse.
“We are pushing every door we possibly can. We are listening to everybody. We’ll take tips,” King said. “What is key for people to understand is even though we know who the drug dealers are, just like we know someone may have done 100-miles-per-hour on Kingsboro Avenue, we have to catch them.”
King said the city police are taking a number of steps to help identify and find dealers in the city, from drug buys to security cameras. He said he couldn’t go further into details, because he did not want to compromise any potential police tactics.
“We’re doing some things. When we arrested people in January it took seven months, because the district attorney needed more,” King said.
King said the other key to helping curb the use of opioids is to offer help to those that are addicts.
“Unfortunately, the stuff is cheap and I think some people realize there is Narcan so the police and ambulance might revive me,” King said.
∫ What can be done about blight issues in the city in the next four years?
King said in the past few years, the city has partnered with Schenectady and a few other cities to share software. He said the project is not moving along as fast he would like, due in part to issues with the speed in which the state is moving.
In addition, Fire Chief Tom Groff and Building Inspector Brandon Myers have been able to get new software through city obtained grant.
King said the city is also holding banks responsible for keeping up properties they own through foreclosure or other means in the city. He said there are dozens of bank owned property that the city is holding responsible for things such as mowing the grass, boarding up windows and keeping up the exterior.
“What I’d like to do going forward, and I think I have the council’s support, is if there is a house in a neighborhood that is in disarray, we can have a contractor come in fix it up, rehab it and sell it,” King said.
King said the current structure sees these properties sell at auction to someone who might not keep it up. He said he would like to see a program start with a few houses.
“That is an initiative that we can really support. The county and city can put some money up front and get some money back and improve a neighborhood,” he said.
For commercial issues, the city has identified ones that are dangerous, versus ones that are eye sores. Those that are dangerous will be torn down.
∫ What do you really want voters to know about you?
“I’m a solution and results based person. I have been criticized by some people that I am not a full time mayor. The way I’ve really responded to that is are we talking full time? Because to me full time is 40 or 50 hours a week. I probably spend 50 hours a week typically on city business. I am 27-7,” King said. “I think what we are talking about is exclusive. I just don’t know at $42,000 a year of a CEO of a $17 million organization. I am not demanding more money, but I am going to have opportunities to balance my income and I don’t think anyone has not been able to get a hold of me.”
“I would want people to know that I am going to continue working hard and I’m going to continue being accessible and transparent. Most of my sins or mistakes are on the front page of [this] newspaper. I don’t have anything to hide, and I’m not going to hire a family member or a friend to the office.”
“I am not going to lie and say I haven’t made mistakes, I certainly had. I’m not going to make promises to people I can’t fulfill. If you like the way the city is going in and if you like my track record lets keep it going for the next four years.”
King said he feels that people are starting to see his results over his time in office. He said he has a strong team that helps to achieve goals for the city.
∫ Why should you be voted in as mayor again?
“I think the team that we have built and the team that we are producing is really producing results. Going by metrics and results, I think we have met all those metrics in a small city like Gloversville. When I came in we were talking bankruptcy. Now, we have $6 million in the bank, we are decreasing taxes. We are helping our police department, we have obtained new vehicles, we’re building relationships. To go backwards from that I don’t think it the right answer,” King said.
King disputed reports during the interview that he is interested in taking over as executive director of the Gloversville Housing Authority. He said he is not qualified for that position. King said during his first years, everyone seemed to be happy with the GHA, but issued surfaced when administration wouldn’t meet with staff. He said himself, First Ward Councilwoman Marcia Weiss, Third Ward Councilman Vincent DeSantis and Sixth Ward Councilman Wrandy Siarkowski met with staff listen to their issues. He said that he was friends with Executive Director Timothy Mattice, who is currently out on paid administrative leave. He said although they are friends, he did not like Mattice hiring his brother at the GHA and did not like the allegations of a hostile work environment.
“It is just doing the right thing,” King said.
He said he is also not interested in taking over the Assembly seat from outgoing Assemblyman Marc Butler. He said recent social media chatter about him visiting a business in Herkimer County was misplaced, stating he was just visiting a friend.
-King said in a different part of the interview that he understands that there are people who don’t like him, but feels that if they had the same information he does, they would make the same decisions.
“If you had all the resources and what you could do and couldn’t do, you would make the same decision,” King said.
King said he is ok with the outcome of whatever happens. He said with his family and friends his goal is to encourage and help others.
“I think we are doing that. I think in this role as mayor, I’ve got a huge opportunity to influence people and help people and I do it every chance I get. And it’s just not during an election year.”
∫ Where do you see the city four years from now with you as mayor?
“I think four years from now we will have a better handle on crime here, by doing the things we are doing. From putting up more cameras to having officers in the academy now who are ready to go,” King said. “I think the neighborhoods will be cleaned up and people will look back and say ‘Wow that Neighborhood Quality Administrator was worth his weight in gold.”
“I think you’ll also have the other side of that, of people complaining that ‘Oh many I got arrest,’ or ‘They cited me for not cutting my grass.’ Those are things I have been working through the since I started,” he said. “We are going to hold people accountable and at the end of four years, that will go away and people will realize, I better mow my grass, I better shovel my sidewalk.”
King said some people who won’t vote for him are ones who were issues citations or arrested for breaking city laws and regulations.
King said he will continue to work with councilmembers, regardless of their political affiliations to pass legislation and move the city forward. He said in a small city, it is important to work with others in city government.
“Over the next four years, you will see the confidence continue to raise and see more people investing in their homes and probably more parks will be open since people will be using them. I think the criminals will not want to be here. I think the land lords who aren’t complying with our rules and laws won’t want to be here.”
“The city will continue to get better, and I think people see it. People do see the progress.”
The following is an individual question that was asked for King:
∫ What is your response to allegations that have been made that the fund balance will be depleted over the next four to five years?
“Here is what we have put out there. If we do nothing, and this was [former finance commissioner] Bruce Van Gendren’s conservative style his whole tenure…,he projected every year that we were going to use fund balance. Every year of my tenure we have not used fund balance we haven’t added to it. So those numbers are super conservative. So we are putting out there if we do nothing, if salaries increase, if health insurance increases if there is no new revenues, then by the end of 2021 or 2022 it’s going to look bad,” King said. “So what we have done during my tenure is we’ve negotiated with the county for Smart Water, that is an extra $500,000 a year. We decreased the minimum staffing in the fire department saving hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
King said he doesn’t want to have to lay anyone off.
“We are going to look for more opportunities. We are bringing in new businesses, like the Shoe Dept. We haven’t counted any of that revenue for the projections. The tax rate has been stable or decreased over the past seven years,” King said. “I think it is people being critical of the facts and not wanting all the facts and discussing half truths.”
“We are always going to look to improve, but for the next four years, we are not going to raise taxes if I am elected,” King said.
King said the city won’t grow the fund balance necessarily, but may use some of it.
“I don’t expect it to be exhausted. I expect more shared services, and I expect at the end of four years to have a real plan of what it will look like for more consolidation, and we’re working together,” King said. “We are 55,000 people… we share so many borders. People on the outside don’t know we’re two different cities. I think the folks in Johnstown, the leaders, have thought, we don’t need Johnstown, but at the end of the next four years, you’ll see Gloversville is doing some things, and our sister city is going to see we do need to partner up.”
Kerry Minor can be reached at [email protected]