“I like the challenges that are out there. I enjoy challenges,” said Third Ward Alderman Ron Barone when asked why he is seeking re-election. Barone said his nineteen years on the former Montgomery County Board of Supervisors taught him to how to deal with the “good, the bad and the ugly.”
“It’s a little more ugly in the city than I anticipated, but I think you get through it. It just takes money. That’s the big thing, is getting money together,” said Barone.
“You know we can find money for all this artwork, but we can’t find money to fix our roads, our water systems, all the blight that we have, the houses that are in disarray. That’s something that puzzles me.”
Barone said one of the most important issues that he dealt with on the common council in the past two years was approving the list of capital projects, for which the city had to borrow for.
“When we put our capital improvements together, that’s when we put $500,000 in there for taking care of the blight, derelict homes…but that only does a drop,” said Barone.
Barone says he believes that the capital projects issue should be looked at every year.
“You can’t let things go,” said Barone, “you have to have something in progress here so that you don’t have to borrow $4 million to just touch – and all we did was touch – some of the things we had to do.”
Barone also pointed to the council’s involvement with the foreclosure process.
“In the last two years that I’ve been here, we’ve handled foreclosures, nobody’s handled that before. It hasn’t been handled for six years prior to that,” said Barone.
According to Barone, it’s not only the controller’s responsibility to move the foreclosure process forward, but the council’s and mayor’s as well. Barone said that both the foreclosure and capital projects issues should have been handled sooner by the mayor and prior common councils.
“We’ve taken responsibility. I think this council has been very proactive with responsibility. As for in the past, I don’t know what they were sleeping on,” said Barone.
“I think I’ve been a big contributor to everything we’ve done here…we’ve lowered taxes two years in a row. And we had a tough budget…we didn’t diminish anything, the services are still there.”
Barone said another issue that he advocated for was adding seasonal workers to assist the Department of Public Works to fix up the city’s roads.
“They’re out in the streets now, and they’re fixing potholes and they’re doing one heck of a job,” said Barone. “As a matter of a fact, I got a letter from the DPW saying what exemplary employees they have right now. They’re doing a fine job.”
Another issue that Barone targeted was allocating money to improve Sirchia Park.
“We finally had some work done,” said Barone, referring to the recently installed basketball hoops.
“I want to put that parking lot in there so that they have winter parking,” he added.
During the budget sessions earlier in the year, Barone advocated for eliminating the Community and Economic Development Director position because he believed the position’s responsibilities could be handled by either Montgomery County or the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency.
When asked what he thought about allowing Montgomery County to take the lead with the city’s economic development, Barone said, “I think it would be the best thing for the City of Amsterdam. For the simple reason that they have the resources, they have everything online, they have everything there.”
He pointed out that the city has AIDA to handle economic development, and the county legislators from the city would represent the city’s interests at the county.
About the county’s past economic development work for the city, Barone said, “I think they do a good job now in helping us do things, so that would work very well.”
As the insurance committee chair, Barone said that bringing in the Garvin Group as the new insurance broker for the city has saved the city money.
“We diminished the cost and still kept [coverage] level or even better,” said Barone. He said that he estimates the move has saved over $200,000 for the city so far.
In regards to the city’s financial operations, when asked whether he thought the city needed to go back and correct prior year’s financial records so that they could be audited, Barone said, “I think you have to do some auditing of the past, but right now, I think you have to get all your ducks in a row…you’ve got to go forward.”
In the future, Barone said he wants to see someone in the controller’s office follow up with residents who fall behind on their taxes before it gets to the point of foreclosure.
“If they have the taxes there, and the penalties and interests aren’t that high, they can get out of it by making a deal, they’re not buried,” said Barone. He added that he has heard from some residents who are overwhelmed with the interest and penalties that have accumulated on their properties.
In regards to the city’s Creative Arts Center, Barone said his preference would be to hand it over to a non-profit, community organization who could run the facility better than the city.
In regards to the proposed recreation center, Barone said, “It’s great, but they’re going to have to fund it out of grants.”
Barone said he could imagine the tax payers “storming city hall” if the city considered contributing a significant portion of the construction cost.
One of the things Barone said he wants to look at is restructuring the DPW in order to become more productive and efficient. Barone said he believes that under better supervision, the department is capable of doing more work in-house instead of hiring outside contractors at a more expensive rate.
Barone said the being responsive to constituents questions and problems is also an important part of his job as alderman.
“I get a lot of phone calls. Not only from my ward people, from other people. I’m one that answers the phone. If I don’t, I take a message and I’ll call back. I never ever do not call back,” said Barone.
“There’s a solution to every problem. That’s one thing I always pride myself on, is being there for the public,” he added.
Barone says he has the time to stay on top of issues that third ward residents bring to him.
“I’m here, I’m retired, I have nothing else to do,” said Barone with a laugh, “I’m around the ward all the time looking at things.”
At the end of the interview, Barone concluded, “Whether you are for me or against me, go out and vote, vote your conscience.”
Barone will appear on the Republican, Conservative, Independence and Reform party lines. He faces challenger Chad Majewski who is running on the Democratic and Rebuilding Amsterdam party lines.