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2 GOP candidates in primary fight to challenge Grelick

A School Board president and a UB engineering professor -- both political newcomers -- are looking to best well-entrenched Amherst Supervisor Susan J. Grelick and each other in Tuesday's primaries for the Republican and Conservative party lines.

Dirk D. Rabenold, president of the Sweet Home School Board and the endorsed candidate of the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties, faces a challenge from Grelick for the Conservative Party line.

On the GOP line, his opponent is UB professor Satish B. Mohan.

The higher profile of the two primaries is the GOP's. With 30,950 registered voters, the Republican Party slightly trails the Democrats. The Conservative Party has 1,251 registered voters but is sought after because minor party lines increasingly make the difference between victory and defeat.

As usual in Amherst, the big issues are taxes, spending and development.

Mohan, a longtime professor of civil engineering, has vowed to cut the 2006 town budget by 10 percent through more efficient management -- without cutting services.

He also would limit future budget increases to the rate of inflation, see that a master plan, and master plans for transportation and drainage are adopted, and have an inventory of town soils conducted to determine how building can proceed.

Mohan, 70, also described the town's assessment process as "illogical" and called for development of easy-to-follow formulas.

Amherst's financial health, he said, is no better than Erie County's, "except we have deeper pockets. Our pockets are always open. We complain and complain. That's why I decided to jump [into the race]. Someone has to do something."

Rabenold said he also looks to the future of Erie County's largest suburb and sees a similar fiscal meltdown.

"There absolutely is a parallel," Rabenold, 50, said. "Amherst needs to get a handle on its costs." Rabenold said everywhere he goes in the town, he hears the same complaint: "It's time for a change."

Grelick, a Democrat elected in 1997, has generally won elections by comfortable margins. But Rabenold said the fiscal turmoil of Erie County government will make it harder on incumbents during the primaries -- and that includes Grelick, who critics say has failed to reduce taxes, spending or development.

Erie County and Amherst both, he said, are guilty of "unchecked spending."

Grelick, 50, denies those claims. She says during her tenure, the town has stabilized taxes, established a debt management plan and exercised management control, all without sacrificing services.

"We've done everything we could to be prudent," Grelick said.

Amherst, like other governments, suffered big increases in spending for retirement benefits and health insurance, she said. That drove up spending, she said, but "we pinched pennies."

Rabenold said he expects to spend between $45,000 and $50,000 on his two races. Mohan said he anticipates spending about $10,000 at most.

Also on the Tuesday ballot are primaries for the Town Board. Three seats, now held by Democrat Daniel J. Ward and Republicans Jane S. Woodward and Shelly Schratz, are up for grabs. All are seeking re-election.

Running in a Democratic Party primary are Ward; Deborah B. Bucki, a community leader who has made two previous attempts at election to the board; and attorney Jerome D. Schad, making his first run. All three are the endorsed candidates.

They are being challenged by former Council Member Gerald I. Brownrout.

e-mail: ncervantes@buffnews.com

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