CAROGA — Meet Ralph Palcovic, a seasoned first responder and heretofore retired local lawmaker. The 65-year-old is applying to take his friend’s job — town supervisor of Caroga.
“I hope we’re friends after this,” said two-term incumbent Scott Horton.
No stranger to local politics is Palcovic, who served multiple terms on the Town Board during the 2000s and 2010s, in addition to a brief stint leading the town in an acting capacity. The 29-year county emergency services official later supported Horton’s candidacy for town supervisor in 2019 in hopes of unifying the government.
But now he believes that he would be the better choice to fill that role. Antithetical views over fiscal stewardship and strategic planning run at the core of the GOP primary contest in one of Fulton County’s most politically active rural enclaves.
“I’d like to see some renewal of local government in the best interest of the people of the town of Caroga,” said Palcovic.
Palcovic is particularly critical of town officials not reconstructing a clubhouse destroyed in a 2020 blaze at Nick Stoner Municipal Golf Course within a payout period mapped out by New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal.
Horton said that COVID-19-induced construction delays are partially to blame. Additionally, he maintained, the town unsuccessfully attempted to leverage funding with three grant requests.
Town lawmakers in the Horton-aligned majority last fall moved to bond the clubhouse, along with a new highway garage and salt shed for a total of $1.5 million. The since-postponed three-phase capital plan was intended to satisfy zoning and code requirements while also tackling long-awaited upgrades.
Palcovic wasn’t impressed. Above all else, the clubhouse should’ve been prioritized foremost to work within NYMIR’s initial payout period, the insurgent contended.
“It was very well thought out, the whole thing,” Horton said. “We’ve told the public about it over and over again, so if my opponent doesn’t pay any attention now, I don’t think he’s going to pay any attention when he’s in office.”
Critics of the vote, like Palcovic, believe each decision should’ve been made through a permissive referendum. But such a move would be costly and drag out the process further, Horton insisted.
“The magnitude of the bonding issue and the financial implications to the town should have been left up to the voters,” Palcovic said.
Regardless, the town has been temporarily barred from borrowing money while locked in a months-long legal challenge from Anita McMartin Long. The plaintiff in a lawsuit has alleged that her petitions for a permissive referendum on each bonding decision had been transgressively and improperly invalidated in October.
Town Clerk Linda Gilbert tossed out the petition by virtue of technicality, a move Palcovic has greeted with skepticism.
“I think [the lawsuit] is ill-advised and I don’t see any benefit,” Horton said.
McMartin Long’s case was thrown out by the state Supreme Court in early April. She has begun a process to appeal the decision in the state Supreme Court’s Third Appellate District.
The plaintiff, a longtime critic of the Horton administration, in the meantime has mounted a bid for Town Board. She’s been endorsed by Palcovic and vice versa.
“I hear people calling for town government that is cost-effective, responsive, accountable, and transparent,” McMartin Long said in a statement. “Ralph Palcovic has the experience and vision to lead and deliver for the people of Caroga.”
McMartin Long faces off against incumbent Rick Sturgess and newcomer Matthew Cooper in the upcoming GOP primary for Town Board.
Odds have historically favored Republican primary victors in the general election. As of February, Caroga had 661 active Republicans, 142 Democrats, 26 Conservatives, one member of the Working Families Party, 45 voters not affiliated with either party and 164 independents, according to the state Board of Elections.
Two Democrats in the GOP-dominated county are running for respective town leadership positions in Mayfield and the town of Johnstown, the county Board of Elections reported. Republicans currently run all 10 towns in the county.
Horton, currently serving a single year term as chairman of the Fulton County Board of Supervisors, seeks to encourage Bleecker and Stratford to consider shifting to four-year terms as a means of providing “more consistency in government.”
He’s interested in putting up a ballot proposition to add two more years to the Caroga supervisorship. Voters in the past have rejected a similar proposal.
“Although I think you can overdo your stay and I support term limits, [when] you’re down there for four years, eight years, there’s a lot of good you can do for your own community, as well as the county,” Horton said.
“Having been in the political arena, I understand that you’re just getting your arms wrapped around things in a period of two years,” Palcovic said. “It would definitely be a positive move.”
Both supervisor candidates aren’t native to the town. The 72-year-old incumbent, a former Niskayuna town councilman from 1990 to 1994, moved to Caroga in 2005, and Palcovic, around 1974.
Another commonality, the two Republicans held high ranking positions on respective appointed town boards before running for elected office. Horton previously chaired the town Planning Board and his opponent, the Board of Assessment review.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected] Follow him on Facebook at Tyler A. McNeil, Daily Gazette or Twitter @TylerAMcNeil.