Three Freeport mayoral candidates squared off Saturday morning to debate who can best manage the village’s growth and finances.
Mayor Robert Kennedy, 62, former Mayor Andrew Hardwick, 59, and Freeport attorney Stephen Drummond, 49, presented their platforms to more than 100 people at the Freeport Memorial Library.
The three candidates, all Democrats, will vie for mayor during the village’s March 21 election, which will also decide two village trustees and a justice seat.
Kennedy, who has been mayor for four years, touted the good aspects of his record, including maintaining four years without a tax increase. The village passed a $71.4 million budget for this year, based on $41 million in property taxes.
Kennedy also said crime has declined three straight years in Freeport. The village has added 20 police officers and 27 license plate readers to check drivers for outstanding warrants.
Kennedy defeated Hardwick for mayor in 2013, but Hardwick, who oversees the Hempstead school district’s security, said Kennedy’s financial picture is not sustainable. He said the high number of homes in foreclosure painted a fragile financial outlook for the village.
“We don’t know what the actual debt [of the village] is right now,” Hardwick said. “Can we really say there’s not a tax increase coming?”
Hardwick said the village has not been clear about its debt burden and could not rely on state assistance for funding.
He also suggested working with the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency to determine needs in the area to attract young people for jobs.
Drummond, who is a former Marine sergeant and Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, said the village needed to stabilize its funding and promote itself to attract new residents.
He suggested the village explore running its own bus service rather than rely on NICE bus service, and that it should transform its recreation center using federal grants.
Drummond said the village needed to control inflation and avoid tax hikes to remain affordable for residents.
“The perception of Freeport must be changed,” Drummond said.