Smithtown Town councilman Edward Wehrheim said he has given his full-time commitment to a part-time role, and will continue to do so if re-elected next Tuesday.
First issue the Republican incumbent said he plans to attack if still a councilman following Nov. 8 elections is local economic growth.
“The economy is in a pretty drastic downturn… we don’t see anything improving, and economic growth is shrinking,” he said. “[With] business districts and your industrial parks and things of that nature, if they continue to diminish and you can’t intercede to get new businesses in where old businesses leave… the commercial tax base starts to shrink. Residential property value assessments will start to go down and residential property taxes will start to rise.”
Wehrheim said he’s played a role on the town council in rectifying this growing problem. He cited his involvement in the renovation of Smith Haven Mall, helping Bob's Furniture come to Smithtown, and aiding . The councilman said these projects alone brought the town roughly $4,500,000 in tax revenue.
Wehrheim said keeping taxes stable is another issue the town needs to address. In his four years on the council, he said the town has been able to do this by keeping surplus funds at the prescribed standards, maintaining a high bond rating and keeping the debt low.
Although confident in the job he has done thus far, Wehrheim said there are areas that the town needs to improve in, specifically, how it communicates with the public.
Wehrheim cited Tropical Storm Irene as
“I believe we had everything in place, which we did. Our public safety department is our emergency preparedness organization… but I will say that certainly Smithtown could communicate more than we have so that the public gets more information that they have in the past,” he said.
Another concern of the councilman is the community's speculation that the focus of the town board is solely on the north side of Jericho Turnpike and not in the southern areas of the township – which he said is far from true.
“We’ve done extensive work in Commack with our parks system … as well as we have in Nesconset,” he said. “We work diligently with Legis. [John] Kennedy and continue to work… on the residents that are down in the areas with the high water tables, flooding their basements. We’ve done some terrific work with his help … We pay as much attention to the residents down there [southern part of township] as we do on the north shore.”
Wehrheim said his track record is reason enough to be elected to a third term as a councilman.
“I think I have the dedication and quite frankly the experience for the residents to continue working on [the] issues and be successful in doing it,” he said.