The candidates for village trustee met at the Sandel Senior Center Monday evening for a public forum and debate.
Challengers Marc Wieman and Emilio Grillo joined incumbents Edward Oppenheimer and Kevin Glynn to discuss the major issues the village will face over the next four years. The four candidates are running for two seats in an at-large election. Former Village Justice Bob Williams moderated the forum, asking questions submitted by the audience.
The forum focused primarily on four interconnected issues: taxes, parking, attracting new businesses and finding alternative sources of revenue for the village. Glynn and Grillo, who are running together on the Common Sense ticket, strongly suggested increases in grant writing to bring new money to the village without raising taxes, while Glynn stressed the importance of his campaign promise four years ago to marry the increase in the village budget to the rate of inflation. Both candidates said they hoped to find ways to persuade new businesses to move to the village, and Grillo suggested cutting all weekend parking fees.
Oppenheimer, the sole representative of the Concerned Citizens Party in the running, argued that grant writing is an inconsistent source of revenue, at best, and cannot be relied on to rectify the village tax problem without cutting services.
“It’s like cotton candy,” he said, noting that grants can easily become a political addiction. “It tastes good, but it’s not very filling.”
Instead, Oppenheimer, an accountant for more than 35 years, suggested finding ways to cut costs that will also streamline village services. He pushed for a new accounting system, and noted that improvements to the village’s paper recycling and billing systems could save over $100,000 in taxpayer money.
Wieman, the founder of the Rockville Centre Forward party — and, like Grillo and Glynn, an attorney — steered clear of mentioning grants, instead focusing on ways to cut unnecessary expenses. He said he hopes to hire more village attorneys in order to keep legal work in-house, which, he claimed, would be much less expensive than continuing to hire outside attorneys.
Parking proved to be almost as divisive an issue as taxes. Wieman argued strongly for a parking deck or garage, noting that Oppenheimer’s suggestion to slim down parking spots in municipal lots could lead to excessively narrow spots, which would make it difficult to park within village limits.
Oppenheimer, however, pointed out that building a garage would be an undue expense for taxpayers — a single new parking spot, he said, costs roughly $10,000 to create. Instead, he suggested restructuring existing parking lots by removing excess cement and repainting lines, a process that could produce more than 100 new spots in the lot behind P.C. Richard & Son.
Glynn, who asserted that parking has only gotten better in Rockville Centre during his four years in office, mostly deferred to his running mate on the parking question. Grillo said he hopes to undertake a full cost-benefit analysis, studying all of the village’s parking areas and deciding afterward how to handle the issue. Oppenheimer, however, insisted that the assessments had already been made, and that the time for action has arrived.
“We can’t sit and study it to death,” he said.
Village elections will take place on Tuesday. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Anderson Recreation Center on Oceanside Road.