Joseph Isabel, the incumbent candidate for district 8 legislator, talked about the challenges the new county government faced in its first three years during an interview at the Walter Elwood Museum last week.
“We had a lot to overcome from the previous form of government. There were a lot of things that needed attention right away, which we had to look at. I think in that respect the board did very well,” said Isabel.
Isabel cited the recent opening of the new wing at the public safety building which now houses the emergency management department which was previously located in a flood zone, as one of the tasks the new government pushed forward.
When asked what issues needed to be worked on in the next three years, Isabel said, “I’d like to see us start really being a little bit more concerned about our budgets. There has been some excessive spending in different areas, primarily some personnel.”
Isabel pointed out that he opposed using an additional $75,000 over the $3.8 million in fund balance use originally proposed to be appropriated in the 2017 budget by County Executive Matt Ossenfort.
“I set myself a limit on the fund balance [use] and I didn’t want to spend any more. That extra $75,000 could have been trimmed out of the budget or changed. That’s why I put up a resolution to send it back to the county executive, which I was shot down [on]. Afterwards, I voted no on the budget,” said Isabel.
Isabel said he was concerned about drops in both sales tax revenue due to decreased gas prices and in revenue generated by the county jail. According to Isabel, Pete Vrooman, the former undersheriff, was a former federal marshal, and was able to bring in federal inmates to the jail which brought in extra revenue. Since Vrooman left the position in 2014, Isabel said that the revenue has declined by approximately $800,000.
“If we lose these sources, we’re going to have to look to some other sources to raise, or decrease expenses. And naturally where’s that going to go? That’s going to go to personnel. But hopefully we don’t’ have to go that far, hopefully we can correct it before then.”
In regards to salary increases for county officials, Isabel said, “I think a lot of our salaries are very adequate.”
“Legislator salaries are not going to go up as long as I’m there,” said Isabel. “When you run for office and you know what you’re making, that’s what I think you should make during your term. There’s been a lot of questions about that going on up there [at the county]. Some people feel they should change mid-term. I don’t feel that way. Anything pertaining to that, I wouldn’t support.”
In regards to the question as to whether the county executive’s salary should be increased, Isabel said, “If the new legislature…comes in and decides that’s what they want to do – give the executive more money – I don’t know if I’ll support it or not, but I think definitely it’s got to wait until his new term.”
Isabel predicted that the makeup of the legislature will change after this year’s elections, and said he decided to run again because he believes his knowledge and experience would be valuable in providing “continuity” in the next three years.
Isabel also said it has been his goal to bring savings to City of Amsterdam residents, and said increased cooperation between the city and county will yield benefits. He cited the recent allocation of approximately $50,000 by the county to go to the Amsterdam Fire Department for providing dive team and hazardous material services to the county as an example.
Isabel said his specialized communications and technical skills acquired from 32 years in the cable television business were valuable in helping understand proposals for projects such as the recent upgrade to the public safety building’s control room equipment.
Previously, Isabel served for three two-year terms on the City of Amsterdam Common Council. He currently works for Cranesville Block and manages the company’s four radio stations including WCSS in Amsterdam.
As a lifelong resident of the city, Isabel said, “I’ve always advocated for the City of Amsterdam…I’ve always looked to help the city and my heart is still in the city.”
Isabel will appear on the Democratic, Conservative, and Independence party lines and will face challenger David Nyle Nelson who is running on an independent line.