Matt Slater is the new Supervisor in Yorktown and I believe I speak for everyone when I wish him well. I thought it might be interesting to ask the former Supervisor (Ilan Gilbert) for his impressions of his two year term in that office. So here goes:
Q: Thank you for your extensive service to the town especially as a town judge and as town supervisor. Which of these positions was the more rewarding? The more stressful?
Gilbert: Both positions were both rewarding and stressful in different ways. So long as your focus is to do what is right in every decision you make, you can walk away knowing you’ve done the best you can for litigants, as Town Justice and constituents, as Town Supervisor. As Town Supervisor each decision and action potentially has a greater impact on a greater number of people. For example, when you create the Town Budget, you determine how the Taxpayer’s money is allocated. You decide on what services the Town can provide and at what cost. In contrast, as Town Justice each decision impacts individuals in a more personal and intimate manner. The decisions of Town Justice can literally affect an individual’s personal liberty.
As to Rewards and Stress, As Town Supervisor you have the ability of setting a tone for the entire town. One of my last actions was to pass a resolution against hateful behavior while as Town Justice you can make a real difference in a litigant’s life, for example getting a drug abuser into rehab.
Q: You are finishing two years as Supervisor. Did it go by fast?
Gilbert: Yes, very fast. When you become Supervisor the first year obviously is a year of “firsts”. Your first budget, your first contract negotiation, your first winter storm crisis, etc. Once you’ve navigated your first year establishing your administration’s direction, you are off and running for re-election in year two.
Q: What surprised you the most when you took office?
Gilbert: What surprised me most when I first took office was how vulnerable this town was regarding aging infrastructure, storm preparedness and the lack of realistic capital projects combined with no plan to pay for them.
Q: What were the accomplishments you are most proud of?
Gilbert: There are many and the following is not a complete list:
-I believe I have returned civility to the Town Board. In addition, I have listened to our residents by moving Courtesy of the Floor to the beginning of Town Board meetings. I am also proud that I have maintained an Open Door Policy for all residents.
-Financially the Town is in better fiscal shape than it has been in years. This is the result of a number of steps that I took over the last two years. For example: 1) Negotiations with Enbridge resulted in an additional $4.15 million in payments to the Town. 2) By directing the Town Attorney to initiate actions against delinquent taxpayers for the first time since 2013, to make sure that all taxpayers pay their fair share, the Town has collected over $ 800,000 in delinquent payments.
-We replaced the roof on the Courthouse, the roof on the Police Department and two roofs at Town Hall.
-Replaced the failing air conditioning system at the Police Department; installed generators at Town Hall and the Highway Garage so that those facilities could continue to function during power outages.
-increased the paving budget in 2019 and even added additional funding to utilize advantageous pricing of asphalt resulting in even additional paving this year and further increased funding in the 2020 budget for paving so that the cycle of repaving Yorktown’s roads could be further reduced from 27 years to 19 years.
-We renegotiated agreements entered into by prior Town Supervisor saving money.
-We refurbished a number of town tennis courts.
-Replaced three sewer pump stations and started the process to replace four additional pump stations.
Q: I know you have many more items on your list but I must move on to the next question: What are some of the projects which need to be completed by the new administration?
Gilbert: While some municipalities receive payments from the State on State owned land within their communities, others, including Yorktown, do not. To correct this inequity I met with Senator Harckham when he was first elected to discuss this issue. I not only informed him of this situation but strongly advocated to correct this situation. The goal is to have New York State compensate Yorktown and similarly situated communities that have State park properties located within their borders but do not currently receive taxes or other payments for those facilities. To his credit, Senator Harckham introduced a bill to rectify this situation and it passed the Senate but did not pass in the Assembly. I have been assured this bill will be reintroduced next session and it is anticipated that at that time it will pass both houses.
Q: Anything else?
Gilbert: Yes, in response to my request Westchester County Executive George Latimer announced an $875,000 investment in Hilltop Hanover Farm. This is the result of numerous meetings with the County Executive and others. It is important that our County Executive equally shares our vision and is ready to infuse new life into Hilltop Hanover Farm. This will help revitalize this wonderful resource and will not only be a great source of enjoyment for our town residents but will also help it to continue to attract visitors to our town. In addition, we have begun framing a solar law as well and working on solar initiatives for the town. The town also received a grant for planning of environmental improvement of Mohegan Lake as well.
It is my hope that Mr. Slater moves forward with all of these projects.
Q: Did you and Matt work together to guarantee a smooth transition?
Gilbert: Yes I have worked hard to ensure that Matt was made aware of all critical aspects he needs to know for the benefit of our constituents.
Q: I know you worked diligently on the last budget. Can you comment on the finished product?
Gilbert: I am very proud of the budget that was passed this year. We addressed many serious issues and yet we kept the three major balances at close to zero tax increase: Library, highway and general. The town had for many years failed to adequately compensate, salary wise its department heads compared to other towns. As a result many people started off here getting their experience and then left for greener pastures. This year in the budget we attempted to rectify the problem.
Q: What’s next for Ilan Gilbert?
Gilbert: My father, my hero, had an expression that I take to heart: Man plans and God laughs. At the moment I do not know what is in store for me. But I also believe that when one door closes another door opens. I look forward to my next opportunity.
Lastly I would like to thank the Town residents for giving me the opportunity to serve them in both capacities of town justice and Town supervisor. It was a great honor. Please know I gave it my best.