Elba native Jeremy Karas and his wife Andrea have two boys, Timothy, 14, and 12-year-old Steven. Karas was appointed to serve out the remaining year term when Adam Tabelski resigned from the position, and then Karas served another two-year term. The demands of his service manager position for Temp-Press prevents Karas from participating in a lot of civic organizations, he says, but, aside from giving quality time to his family, he would like to devote himself to serving again on City Council.
Q: What do you feel is your responsibility as a councilman-at-at large?
A: I mean, obviously, we can be responsible for all of the wards throughout the city, not just one single one. So many voters, any constituents within the city of Batavia, can come to us with any concerns or if they have anything that they'd like to see changed with the city. Or, you know, once in a great while we get to hear what we're doing well. But yeah, usually, for the most part, it's something wrong. But, you know, occasionally we get some pats on the back here or there, which is nice. But yeah, I mean, we're just here to listen to anybody and everybody that's willing to talk to us. And I've got some friends and family throughout the city that, you know what? We have some things coming up or, you know, I'll just I'll reach out to them or just when I'm walking my dog in the neighborhood, just say, Hey, you know, what do you think about, you know this or that, that they've been talking about? Or what direction would you like to see us go? And basically, I view their role as just, we have to kind of use your best judgment based on the input you get from the people around you and Batavia. And, you know, help advise city management in a direction to go based on that, then just stay as objective as possible and reach out to as many people as you can.
Q: What's going right with Batavia?
A: I believe a lot of things are OK. I definitely got in on an interesting time, with the pandemic hitting, and yeah, seeing a lot of the financial restraints that we have and question marks and even uncertainties with, you know, some of the downtown revitalization. I mean, a lot of developers and everybody, everyone just kind of hunkered down and nobody really knew what was going to go on. And it really is nice to see. I mean, Savarino definitely looks like they're finally moving forward on the station there. You know, I mean, it's really great to see some of these projects taking form and moving forward. And we were able to keep baseball on the table as well.
You know, we're looking at options for the ice rink long-term too. I really think the city's got a lot going for it. They just said that, just on the outside of the city, HP Hood is putting up their new facility, upstate Niagara building on the old Alpina plant, Graham is still doing well, Chapins is still here. O-At-Ka is still here. I mean, we have the jobs here to give and support the community as well. You know, it's not just where people have to go to Buffalo and Rochester … we have the jobs, we've got the downtown that's growing and there really is a lot this area has going for it.
Q: What could use some improvement in Batavia?
A: Oh, as far as improvement? Oh, that's a tough one. I mean, nothing is perfect, right? I would like to see more of a focus start heading down towards like the Ellicott Street area for the revitalization, and not just downtown. I think it's great that Main Street is doing what they're doing, but I think that's another area that, you know, once these get taking off, that needs to be another area of focus. I haven't been on long enough to see in the past, but I would like to see some of the facilities being kept up better, more being replaced. And like I said, I just know there's some aging equipment that the fire department has that need to be repaired or replaced, the police department as well. I mean, the fact that they've been in that building, as long as they have, is shameful as far as I'm concerned. Yeah, it really is. I mean, I'd really like to see us stay ahead of stuff a lot more rather than getting to the point where everything's crumbling down around you and you have to move on it, you know? Yeah. And I mean, that's something I like to do, you know, with my job or to help customers with that. We're trying to stay ahead with staying on a replacement plan and keeping things running smoothly. So, yeah, I mean, I would like to see that as far as something I think that could be improved upon. It's just trying to get better, better replacements in line and possibly or even just better purchasing.
Q: What is your top priority for 2022 if you are re-elected?
A: Should I be fortunate enough to get re-elected, I would like to just continue with what we're doing, honestly, like I said, with moving forward with some of the projects downtown. This year's budget should be much easier for management to do. As I said, I know last year we had to make some really hard choices on some cuts and things that we had to push off reserves that didn't get nearly as much as they probably should have. And, I mean, some of the tax revenues and what we've been looking at so far, for all intents and purposes, it looks like the same for this year’s coming budget. Next year, we should be getting back on track where you could start building towards those things and putting a little bit more away. That's really the big thing that I would like to see coming through next year.
Q: How would you personally contribute to city operations?
A: I think all of us on the council, we all come from a little bit different walk of life and we've all got definitely different professional backgrounds that we come from. And I think there have been some instances where I've been able to lend some of my background and expertise with some of the businesses that I deal with where, you know, some of them may have not been exposed to some of that stuff, unfortunately. But yeah, there definitely have been a few issues here. And there were things that were right up my alley.
Q: Why should you get a resident’s vote in this election?
A: I've proven to be a good member of the council. I've had, you know, a handful of residents who have contacted me for some things throughout the time I've been on council, and have helped them to find resolutions to their issues. You know, I know I'm not the loudest one there. I don't jump up and scream and shout out a lot of things. But you know, I'm always willing to listen. Always willing to help out anyone that stops and talks to me or calls me. I always try to make myself available as much as I can, and I really do enjoy the time I spend on council and trying to help make the city a better place.
Q: Do you feel that the city of Batavia needs more housing?
A: I believe it does. I mean, I like to look at, like, a couple of the Realtors’ websites every once in a while just to see. And it seems to me, just from what I've heard from people around my age group, and that it is fairly difficult to find something. And once you know, like if the average family size home does go on the market, it seems like they don't last long. I've seen some in my neighborhood over on Union Street. I mean, they'll only be there a week or two weeks and it's already gone. Sometimes they don't even make it to market. And I know, like when we purchased our house back 15 years ago, it had been on the market for, I think, six or eight months somewhere in there and it was just sitting there. Nobody seemed like anybody was buying that. But yeah, I mean, just from how quickly I see some of them selling now. I believe, yes, the city could benefit from more housing or either maybe some sort of incentive to repair some of the older properties that are here.
Q: Do you feel that downtown needs more businesses, and if so, why types?
A: Oh, absolutely. There's still plenty of empty storefronts there. You know, places for, you know, expansion and places to be repaired and fixed up. I'd definitely love to see more business downtown. As to what they are, that's yet to be seen, but I would absolutely love to see more downtown. I mean, we've already got some very nice restaurants downtown. I don't know if more shops would be feasible. I know some of them to seem to struggle this day and age with the coming out of Amazon and all the online sales. I know it's very tough for those types of businesses. Yeah, it is. I would love to see more of those types of stores. I just I don't know realistically, you know, at this day and age, it's tough to open those kinds of places. It is. I get it. I'm realistic about that. As much as I would love to see more of them down
Q: How do you feel about a new police station and where it’s to be located?
A: It's very shameful that they've been stuck in that building as long as they have. That was when I first came on council. I was able to tour all the departments in that and I did. I spent about half a day with (Chief) Shawn (Heubusch) and he took me through the whole station and showed me everything, and I just I couldn't believe the condition of it. I couldn't. I felt very bad that they are there. I, without a doubt, believe that we need to build them a new station.
As far as the location, I do like talking to Rachel and talking to other members of council and previous studies that they have. They have another one going through, apparently, because of course, those ones were years ago when it was on the plate then and for whatever reasons, that didn't move forward. Yeah. You know it does look like the best location. The utilities are already there. It's city-owned property, which reduces our costs. We don't have to buy property. It's got a lot of checkmarks and positives for it.
The only concern that I mentioned, you know, when we were looking at that and they had some rough sketches, is I just I don't want it to hamper the businesses that are already in that area by taking up too much of that parking lot. The way they had it drawn out, you know, that was the one concern they did raise. I just want to make sure all those buildings along Washington, you know, whether or not you get the movie theater up and going again, depending on what happens with the old Penneys in there, even though they've kind of got their own parking, you know, I think we need to look long term as well once we start to finalize plans for that and just make sure everyone's going to have enough breathing room if they're able to function. And especially when it snows.
Q: Do you feel that the police department could use more, less, or the same funding for what it needs to do?
A: I believe, you know, that the status quo is ok. As far as the feedback we have received from the chief they are, they're finally up to the full staff, which I know when I first came on council, I believe they were maybe four or five officers short. And that, of course, was causing additional overtime. But yeah, they definitely need the station. But I think once you get them in there, get out of the old building and that, yeah, they seem to have a fairly good replacement plan for the vehicles. I believe they're pretty well set from what we’ve been told.
Q: Do you believe that city taxes are fair for the city amenities that taxpayers receive?
A: Yes, I do believe they are. I mean, they’re only around, I think it's $9.25 per thousand of assessments. I believe that is pretty fair for I mean, considering public safety when you're talking about paying for the fire department and police department and then your DPW as well as all the roads and sidewalks, parks, and that's a lot that's taken care of for that little bit of money.
Q: Why should residents give you a vote?
A: I guess I'm not somebody to jump up and down and scream and shout and I don't like, you know, I'm not one of those people that's going to go up to, you know, to start patting myself on the back, telling you all the great things that I did. But no, I mean, not always open to anybody coming to talk to me, and I'm going to try to stay as objective as possible with anything and everything. We all come from different walks of life. And, you know, I think we can all find a good path forward for the city. You know, if we're all just willing to work together at it, keep a level head.
Q: Have you said everything you wanted to say about running for council-at-large?
A: Yes, I think so.