By Jamie Norton
Two vie for Mayoral seat in March 18 election
Fra Putorti has the utmost respect for mayor Pat Norton.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t think he could match her performance in the village office.
"I think I can do as good a job, if not a better job, than Pat," said the Democratic nominee for Whitehall’s top spot. "Sometimes maybe a change of perspective (is helpful). Maybe I can see something that Pat hasn’t seen over the years. I’m not going to guarantee anything."
It may take a change in residents’ philosophies to unseat someone with a strong track record like Norton, who has been Whitehall’s mayor since 1997. But Putorti says he is certainly up for the challenge.
"Pat’s been there for a long time, and she’s done a good job with it," he said. "I look at things and situations and see what we can do. I have nothing against Pat."
In her 12 years as mayor, Norton has brought in close to $8 million in grants to improve the Whitehall community, including housing rental rehabs, loans for local businesses, and streetscape improvements such as period lighting and a walking trail on the east side of the canal. She also recently helped implement the First-time Buyers program, which grants anyone who qualifies up to $25,000 toward home purchases or renovations.
"I am happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish," Norton said. "Of course, I always want to do more."
She emphasized, however, that whoever the village’s mayor is for the next term will have a more difficult time getting approval for grants to further improve the area.
"This next term is going to be somewhat restrictive in terms of grants because of the economy," she said. "As a community we’re going to have to tighten our belts and deal with situations knowing there’s not going to be a great deal of outside money. And maybe we won’t be able to do everything we want to do."
One of the pending expenses, Norton said, may be upgrades to all the village’s pumping stations. The Department of Environmental Conservation has asked Whitehall to sign a consent order and begin improvements that would cost, according to Norton, in the neighborhood of $8 million.
Paying for a project of that magnitude will be a challenge, Norton said, especially because the village is already in the 87th percentile of its tax limit.
Putorti agrees that the next term will be financially troublesome, and he and the village are looking into ways to reduce annual costs. The most prominent idea for doing so is to dissolve the Village of Whitehall.
"We’re really, seriously looking into dissolving the village and just have a town," he said. "Here in the village, I think most of the people are looking for that. That’s my main objective."
But, he said, that possibility could only become a reality if it would save significant money.
"We really need to look into that and see how much you’re going to save by dissolving," he said. "If it’s not cost-effective, then there’s no sense in doing it. The village, right now, they need some money."
Joining Norton on the Republican ballot will be Richard Colomb for trustee for two years, and Dan Welch for trustee for two years. A contest between Kenneth Bartholomew and Tom Nichols for village justice ended when Bartholomew took the nomination after a vote of 21-20.
Joining Putorti on the Democratic caucus will be Sallyann Raino and Mike Lachapelle for village trustees, and Julie Scott has her eyes on the village justice seat.
"The Democrats, I think have a good lineup of candidates," said Putorti, the owner of Putorti’s Broadway Market. "I’ve had a business for 35 years; I know we have to change with the times to survive. I’m sure we can do this."