By RYNE R. MARTIN
MASSENA - The Massena Republican Committee made it official at a party caucus this week when they nominated Joseph D. Gray to run for re-election as town supervisor.
He will, however, be the only candidate on the Republican line in the town races, which also include three town council seats on the ballot currently held by Albert Nicola, Charles Raiti and recently appointed Thomas Miller.
The caucus drew 13 Republicans, and Adrian Taraska was nominated to run for one of the town council seats. He thanked caucus members for the offer but declined the nomination.
Mr. Gray, 49. and his wife, Marcy, live on West Hatfield Street, Massena. He thanked his fellow Republicans for their support for his bid for a second term as town supervisor.
Its a difficult time in local government, and we continue to struggle with expenses. We have some challenges at the town level, he acknowledged.
Mr. Gray acknowledged many people want cuts in local government expenses, but they also dont want to see services cut. We are in the service business. Paying our employees their wages and benefits cost money. It is difficult to cut without cutting services, he noted.
The incumbent town supervisor said there will be a number of significant issues facing the town board over the next four years with the future of Massena Memorial Hospital topping the list. The hospitals Board of Managers recently commissioned a study to determine the merits of moving Massena Memorial from its current public status to a private not for profit facility.
Everybody knows about the challenges at the hospital. That is our first and foremost challenge. The hospital is not going anywhere. It wont be sold, he stressed, noting if it is determined the private status is in the facilitys long-term best interest a local not for profit would be formed and the hospital would be run by a board of directors. The current Board of Managers members are appointed by the town board.
He said it is important for hospital staff and administrators to work together with the hospital board over the coming months during the study of the facilitys future. There are a number of misconceptions being thrown out there right now by special interest groups, he said.
Recent town board meetings have been well attended in recent months by hospital employees, their union leaders and opponents of the privatization talks.
Mr. Gray said the town also hopes to be in talks with the New York Power Authority in the not too distant future to conduct a 10-year review of the relicensing agreement for the St. Lawrence-FDR Project signed in 2003.
There are a number of things that were not anticipated in 2003, the bankruptcy of General Motors and the closure of its plant in Massena, the size of the settlement NYPA reached in Western New York - the Niagara project is 2 1/2 times the size of the St. Lawrence project but the settlement is 8 1/2 times higher. We, as local governments, have made the power authority aware of that and the need to have those discussions, he said.
Mr. Gray said he had traveled to Albany and met with state officials in Massena in recent weeks to discuss the ongoing Mohawk land claim negotiations. Those discussions will continue. There is research going on right now, he said of the now decades old settlement talks.
The town supervisor also said he continues to strive to provide taxpayers with efficient day to day operations of town government. That challenge continues. We have a great staff. I do try to ask questions, stir things up a little bit to see if there are better ways to do things. Weve made progress in some areas, and we still have work to do in other areas, Mr. Gray told his fellow Republicans.
He reiterated the community faces challenges. There is a need for introspection because being a mill town with three plants in no longer in the cards. Im bullish on Massena. We have good people, a great school district, he said.
Mr. Gray acknowledged health issues that affect his mobility will impact his campaign strategy. Obviously I will have difficulty doing door to door campaigning, he said.
The town supervisor noted the door to the supervisors office is always open when he is at the town hall and said he is also receptive to responding to phone calls and emails. He said he is also considering staging meetings in various neighborhoods over the next few weeks to meet with voters.
With the partys nomination in his pocket, Mr. Gray noted he plans to start a Facebook page and a web site focusing on his re-election campaign.