‘Keep an open mind. Reach out to people. Don’t think you know everything’
ALBION – The Village Board will have three new members on April 1 with Mayor Eileen Banker and trustees Gary Katsanis and Stan Farone not coming back for another term.
Banker has been mayor the past four years and a board member for 12 years. Katsanis has six years on the board and Farone, eight years.
They leave at a time when the village will see the retirement of Linda Babcock as village clerk/treasurer next month. Katsanis called Babcock “the pulse of the village office.”
The three new board members will join Trustee Chris Barry, who has been on the board two years, and Zack Burgess, who was elected a year ago.
Banker, Katsanis and Farone were interviewed on Feb. 19 in the village office. They highlighted big projects with upgrades to Bullard Park, and the water and sewer plants.
They are pleased with agreements with Elba and Holley, where village personnel run the sewer plants in those villages.
Albion also worked out an arrangement with the Albion school district to have an Albion officer assigned to the district as a school resource officer.
Banker said she doesn’t micro-manage the department heads but pays close attention to their reports. She works as the chief of staff for Assemblyman Steve Hawley. She said her relationships with other local, state and federal officials has helped Albion secure grant funding for Bullard Park and village infrastructure.
Farone is retired after a 33-year career from Kodak. He has been an active firefighter for 50 years, with Albion and Holley, and also as a volunteer with COVA.
Katsanis is retired as a medical data analyst for Strong and then Blue Cross. He managed a staff that stretched from Buffalo to Utica.
The trio said they try to empower the department heads and heap praise on the village employees. The village has about 50 employees and a $7 million budget that includes the general fund, water and sewer.
The tax rate the past three budgets includes $17.80 per thousand dollars of assessed property in 2019-20 and 2020-21 and then $17.85 in 2021-22.
The new board starts April 1 and budget needs to be adopted by the end of April. The new board also will need to negotiate a contract with the DPW union.
The mayor is paid $9,723 a year with the trustees’ salary at $6,572. Katsanis tracked his hours and estimated it translates into about $2 an hour during busier months.
Question: What were you advice be for the new members of the Village Board?
Stan Farone: For the new people coming in my advice is if you have any questions, I’m available. I know Eileen and Gary would be available to sit down or give us a call. I did sit down with one of the person’s running for trustee. I’m here to help. I’ll sit down with anybody at any time to keep the village going in the right direction.
Gary Katsanis: My advice to people coming on is if you work as hard as you possibly can you may in fact do an adequate job. Speaking for myself I think I’ve worked hard for the village and I think I did, by and large, an adequate job. All of our positions here are just to pass the baton to the next group of people.
Eileen Banker: My advice is to keep an open mind. Reach out to people. Don’t think you know everything because there is a lot to learn. I’ve been on the board 12 years and I’m still learning. There are new things that you learn because things come up that are not in the book, that you don’t know, that’s not black and white. It’s not written down. There is no guide book to this. There are so many things that could happen that have happened. We’ve always as a board been able to move forward with it.
My husband also says not to look at Facebook. I’ve gotten so aggravated with the stuff on Facebook and taken it to heart. You (Tom Rivers) would put an article on the Orleans Hub, it would be about something positive, and it automatically was bashing and people saying the village is no good.
Stan Farone: They also have to know there are going to be times when you get into discussions where you don’t agree with each other. There are times when Eileen and I disagreed over something and it seemed like we were going to cut each other’s heads off. But then we’d walk out that door and I’d go put my sneakers on and we’d go for a walk together.
So once you walk out that door you have to learn to leave everything there.
Eileen Banker: And the mayor does not control the decision making of the board members. You’re individuals. You are individual people who are elected by the village people. You’re not controlled by the mayor. Most of the time I’ll sit up and wait until everybody else votes.
Gary Katsanis: Yeah, the mayor is not supposed to be initiating action.
Eileen Banker: I don’t initiate. It’s everybody else voting first. Then if I need to vote, I vote. I usually vote.
Question: Are you concerned about the lack of Village Board experience with the candidates and also with the village clerk retiring?
Stan Farone: I’m very concerned. They do have the qualifications but they don’t have the experience and to me experience is a big thing. I don’t have anything against the two board members who are staying (Chris Barry and Zack Burgess). They are two good people, but they are fairly new. They have only been on two years.
You are going to end up with a new mayor and two new board members, and a new clerk. Like I said there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that they don’t realize.
Like I said in one of my tweets, the trustees are not here to train the mayor. The mayor is here to guide the trustees. I don’t see that happening with a new board coming on.
Eileen Banker: There is also a lot of municipal law you have to be familiar with. There is stuff within the budget. You can’t mix money – the water and sewer funds you can’t mix with the general fund. You have to be really careful because when an auditor comes through and there are things in your books that are not done correctly, the answer “Oh I’m new I didn’t know” doesn’t cut it.
Question: What are some of the things you are proud of during your time on the board?
Stan Farone: There’s a lot we can be proud of for accomplishments. I’m not going to say individually because we work as a board. So the improvements at Bullard Park, the water plant, I’m just proud to be a trustee in the village and seeing it go as far as it has. Being a trustee I’m proud to sit there and make decisions and help the village. We worked on grants, we worked on Bullard Park, basic public relations with employees. It gave me the opportunity to work on some of these other committees like the Scarecrow Committee and just being involved with the village as a whole. I’ve tried to get the people to come downtown and make it better as whole for the village.
Gary Katsanis: We’ve been fiscally responsible and that’s important to me.
Eileen Banker: We did the banners (of veterans) which I’m proud of. But again, fiscally responsible, I think that is important. We’ve tried to hold the line. If we did have to increase taxes it’s because of no fault of our own. It’s because of the increase in retirement of healthcare. You want to have something you can give the employees because you’re down to bare bones in each department so you want the best qualified person. You need to entice them with what we can give them.
There are times we had to raise (the tax rate) by 2, 3, 4, or 5 cents. It’s a minimum increase – would we have still liked to decrease it? Absolutely – but I think we’ve done well. We got, like I said, great department heads and I’m very proud of all of them and all of our employees. We have a lot of new employees and they say this is the best place to work. People have no idea how much they get and how well they are taken care of working for the village.
The banners were probably one of my proudest moments because of what they stand for. It’s the military, it’s my father, it’s father-in-law, it’s my neighbor. I’m very thrilled with the banner program and I hope it continues.
The photos we’ve put in here (village office and main meeting room). I love the photos and I think more should be done. We had a great photographer (Peggy Barringer) who did those for us.
Question: Stan, I know you do that Cycling the Canal bike ride every year and even rode the bike in the Metro 10 in Albion.
Stan Farone: I do the canal ride every year. I did the Metro 10 and I still do a lot of 5ks. I’m planning on doing a 6-hour walk and run in Buffalo. I put it on Facebook and to try to encourage people to walk around and come out in the village and look around. I had about 6-7 people come down and we talked about the book, I think it’s The Boy from the Four Corners. It was written about downtown Albion. We talked about downtown Albion and we looked up where you can basically see the dates on the buildings. Just to get people downtown where they can see what’s going on makes me feel good.
Candidate forum this evening at Lockstone
There will be a candidate forum today from 6 to 8 p.m. with the seven candidates running for the Village Board in the March 15 election. The Lockstone is hosting the event at 160 North Main St. The event is sponsored by The Lake Country Pennysaver and Orleans Hub.
The candidates include three people for mayor: Angel Javier Jr., running on the Republican and independent “Better Together Albion Strong” lines; Vickie Elsenheimer on the Democratic and independent “Move Albion Forward” lines; and Kevin Graham on the independent “Albion Pride, Working Together.”
Four people are seeking two trustee positions on the Village Board. Tim McMurray and Dan Conrad are on the Republican line. Sandra Walter and Joyce Riley are under the Democratic line and the independent “Move Albion Forward.”