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Potsdam Town Board has new face, same priorities in new year

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POTSDAM — A new face has joined the Potsdam Town Council, but many of the same priorities and issues will persist into 2014.

James A. Grant will begin serving as a board member in the new year, replacing Michael J. Zagrobelny, who stepped down after two terms to focus on his new job at New York State United Teachers.

Mr. Grant ran unopposed in November, and has been attending board meetings for the last few months to prepare for his new responsibilities, including the year-end meeting Monday afternoon.

“I’m looking forward to learning the ins and outs of how the council works,” he said.

He was not heavily involved in local politics until recently, he said, and did not decide to pursue the position because of any particular issues he wished to advocate.

“I wanted to get involved with what’s going on,” he said.

Mr. Grant works for CSX railroad, and said he wants to speak for his fellow residents.

“Making the right decisions for the people — that’s why you’re voted in,” he said.

One of his first challenges will be helping the board decide how to handle the planned takeover of the recreation program, which is now shared between the village and the town.

The town is slated to take sole control of recreation by January 2015, but the matter will be put up to a vote first.

The board agreed to hold a public meeting on the subject at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 21, and the vote will be held at a later date.

The referendum will include all voters in Potsdam, excluding the village of Norwood.

Town taxes for all those outside Norwood likely would rise at least 80 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value if the measure passes, although village taxes likely would drop.

“I think it’s their right to vote for this,” town Supervisor Marie C. Regan said.

Ms. Regan said she plans to hold the vote before the village finalizes its budget in May. She thinks it will be a close vote, she said. Several property owners already have complained to her about the proposed tax hike.

Another town priority in 2014 will be pursuing grants to provide water and sewer services on Route 56, a possibility that has long been considered but remained unfeasible, Mrs. Regan said.

The lack of these services scares away potential businesses that may want to build on the route, she said.

The town no longer has any major pending construction projects, and still has some money left in a capital fund established through a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with Brookfield Power.

“We have a little bit of seed money,” Ms. Regan said.

These funds would not be enough to complete the project, and the town likely will seek grants to make it happen, Ms. Regan said.

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