FONDA - The volunteer Montgomery County Charter Commission on Wednesday voted to recommend creating eight legislative districts in the county, among other changes that will be forwarded as a proposal to the county Board of Supervisors.
The group is charged with drafting a county charter by July 1 and presenting it to the board. A public referendum would be part of the November general election if supervisors approve the proposal in mid-July.
One public hearing has already been conducted and two additional hearings are scheduled. The next hearing will be conducted at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Canajoharie Village Hall, 75 Erie Blvd. A third hearing will be conducted at 6:30 p.m. June 25, at the Amsterdam Riverfront Center.
The commission's district action Wednesday immediately didn't sit well with Charleston Supervisor Shayne Walters, the board chairman, who said small municipalities like his will lose out.
"To me, it's the total wrong thing to do to this whole county," Walters said.
The charter commission is recommending three districts in the city of Amsterdam, and one each in the towns of Amsterdam and Florida. The rest of the county would fit under three remaining districts.
It will effectively allow moving from a Board of Supervisors government to a county legislature, but Walters said he personally feels representation from town levels could be lost.
Palatine Bridge Mayor James Post, vice chairman of the commission, said today that will not be the case. He said some of the new districts will largely follow geographical areas that encompass school districts within proximity to each other.
He said the commission feels the traditional, 15-member Board of Supervisors model is not working. He said the board also wanted creation of an elected county executive, which is being recommended in the commission's proposal.
That executive would have tie-breaking powers, according to the commission's plan.
"We didn't want the current Board of Supervisors to remain that way - with 15 members representing 50,000 people," Post said.
Post said each of the eight districts would have roughly 6,300 residents. He said the commission looked at structuring the districts to a certain extent on school districts.
For example, residents of the Fort Plain and St. Johnsville school districts, would be in one legislative district; residents of the Canajoharie Central School District would be in another; residents of the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District would be in another.
"We didn't want to take communities away from communities," Post said.
Walters remains opposed to the commission's findings. He said the towns and city in Montgomery County should continue to be represented by elected officials, and the last thing the county needs at this time is "another level of government."
He said the executive won't "even have to be qualified" before he or she is put in that position, and a small town like Charleston will be "left out in the cold" as far as representation.
"I'm against this whole thing," Walters said. "I think it's a joke. It's going to be very different."
Michael Anich can be reached at email@example.com.