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Tom Catillaz (left) and Bob Bevilacqua. Photos courtesy <em>Adirondack Daily Enterprise</em>
Tom Catillaz (left) and Bob Bevilacqua. Photos courtesy Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Airport the focus in Harrietstown race

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While races for president, Congress, Assembly and other offices are sure to draw voters to the polls next month, a local campaign in the Saranac Lake area has also been sparking a lot of debate.

Two candidates who are veterans of the local political scene are vying to be supervisor of the town of Harrietstown.

The town's management of the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear has proved to be one of the most contentious issues in the campaign so far. Chris Knight reports.

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Reported by

Chris Knight
Adirondack Correspondent

The race pits Republican Bob Bevilacqua, a current town councilman, against Democrat Tom Catillaz, a former mayor and current trustee of the village of Saranac Lake.

Since the early going, Catillaz has been playing challenger, portraying the current town board as sluggish and lagging behind the village on issues like economic development. “We want to bring companies here and bring jobs here,” Catillaz said. “The village just doesn’t do it by themselves. It needs to be a whole team effort. We need their brain trust. We need their participation.”

Catillaz has also hit hard on the airport, which carried a $300,000 operating deficit last year and is partly responsible for large townwide tax levy hikes in two of the last three years. Catillaz wants to cut costs and boost revenue at the airport by lowering fuel prices to increase demand and leasing land to tenants who want to build their own hangars.

Catillaz and his supporters, including village Mayor Clyde Rabideau, have issued countless press releases over the past month, and they even produced an airport-themed music video, called “Harrietstown Needs More Jet Planes,” a parody of “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”

Bevilacqua’s campaign, meanwhile, has been steady but less aggressive, perhaps fitting with the “measured approach” Bevilacqua says he’d bring to the job of supervisor.

 “Before I make a decision, I will ask people for their opinion," he said. "I don't shoot from the hip. You have to look out for the taxpayers, not just today but in the future."

Bevilacqua’s plan for the airport includes working with other communities around the region on a plan to share the airport's management and costs; developing an airport marketing plan; expanding fuel sales and services and asking Franklin County to make airport fuel sales exempt from sales tax.

The campaign was relatively tame until last week, when town of Harrietstown officials, including Bevilacqua, fired back at Catillaz, saying he was twisting the facts and that many of his ideas for the airport have been tried or are already in the works.

Nichole Meyette is a town councilwoman, and a Democrat.

 “What’s being portrayed is that Harrietstown sits back and doesn't do anything,” she said. “I’m not going to say its lies or its false truths, but the correct information isn’t there, the full information isn’t there.”

The election is for the remaining year in the term of former Harrietstown supervisor Larry Miller, who resigned earlier this year. A full, four-year term will be on the ballot next fall.

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