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Massena supervisor mulling whether he will seek second term

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MASSENA - The supervisor of the town of Massena says he hasn’t made a decision on whether he will seek re-election to the post he has held for the past four years.

Joseph D. Gray, 49, was elected to the post four years ago when he outpolled then incumbent Supervisor Gary Edwards 1,647-1,073 on Election Day in November 2009. He has served as the only Republican on the Massena Town Board for the past five years.

While many elected officials in the county are currently passing petitions to be on the ballot, the timetable in Massena is a little different since Republicans and Democrats select their candidates for town and village office in caucuses that have typically taken place in late August or September.

“I’ll make a decision soon,” Mr. Gray said this week. “I’ve enjoyed my three plus, almost four years. I think I’ve been able to impact some things and have worked well with the council. I need to decide, after consultation with my family, if it is something I want to continue.”

The supervisor’s seat and three council seats will be on the ballot in November. The four-year terms of Mr. Gray and councilmen Albert Nicola and Charles Raiti end on Dec. 31, 2013. Voters will also be asked to select a candidate to fill the unexpired two-year term of Councilman Robert Cunningham, who recently resigned from his post to take a job at the Massena Electric Department.

Mr. Gray said some of the highlights of his first term on the town board have been changes in health care insurance that have resulted in major savings for the municipality and the launch of the FishCap initiative that has focused attention on the value and economic potential of the region’s waterways.

“We certainly made a dramatic change - and it wasn’t just me, it was the council - that saved us over $100,000 in retiree health insurance costs. Now we are looking at possible changes in employee health insurance,” he said.

With the town board faced with increasingly difficult budget decisions in recent years, Mr. Gray said he and the board have been looking closely at all expenditures. He said pension costs remain a concern at the town entities and suggested he had worked to increase scrutiny of operations at Massena Memorial Hospital. “There’s still more work to do there,” he said.

Mr. Gray said there have also been changes in economic development efforts in Massena in recent years. “We haven’t perfected that yet,” he said.

The 1986 graduate of St. Lawrence University, a former chairman of the St. Lawrence County Republican Committee, said politics has little or no role in the town government’s deliberations.

“I try to be as open as possible. I think we work pretty well together,” he noted.

A number of significant issues are currently on the horizon that will likely be handled by the next town board. Those issues range from land claims negotiations with the Mohawks and an effort to negotiate improvements to the relicensing agreement with the New York Power Authority to talks about privatizing Massena Memorial Hospital.

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