FONDA - After almost two hours of debate, the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to send a proposal for a new form of government to voters.
The charter proposal is scheduled to appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.
During a public hearing on the proposal Tuesday, local residents and government employees gave their opinions about the proposal.
Above, Amsterdam 2nd Ward
Supervisor Jeffery Stark speaks to other Montgomery County supervisors during a discussion about the
proposed charter Tuesday at the county office building in Fonda. Florida Town
Supervisor William Strevy is shown at left.
The Leader-Herald/ Arthur Cleveland
Vito Powylan, a concerned
citizen, speaks during the public hearing on the charter Tuesday.
The Leader-Herald/ Arthur Cleveland
The proposed new charter was created by the Montgomery County Charter Commission. The county asked the commission to review the feasibility of changing the county's form of government from a board of supervisors to a county legislature.
The charter, if passed in November, would replace the current board with nine legislators and a county executive.
The county board passed the charter as proposed except for one change.
The board agreed to a proposal by Amsterdam 5th Ward Supervisor Michael Chiara to replace the charter's appointed commissioner of finance with an elected county treasurer.
With 12 of the 13 supervisors present, the discussion about the charter proposal got heated at times.
At one point, Root Supervisor John Thayer raised his hand and called for a Republican caucus.
All supervisors except for Chiara, St. Johnsville Supervisor Dominick Stagliano and Amsterdam 2nd Ward Supervisor Jeffery Stark then went into another room for the closed caucus.
Several minutes later, the board reconvened and passed the charter.
The board considered a proposal to make the amendment calling for an elected county treasurer as a separate ballot item, but the board decided it didn't have enough time to do that by the November election.
Opinions on the charter vary on the board.
However, all of the supervisors except for Mohawk Supervisor Greg Rajkowski approved the charter.
Amsterdam 1st Ward Supervisor Vito "Butch" Greco said he hopes people will educate themselves on what this new charter entails.
"People need to see the authority of the county executive, and should know what that authority is," said Greco, referring to the executive's power over hiring and firing employees. "And the legislative body will be here to make laws, policies, and that's it. Please be informed, because this is a drastic change."
Mark Hoffman, who works for the county, stated during the public hearing that change is scary, but so is county government.
Vito Powylan, a concerned citizen who spoke during the public hearing, said he disagrees with the charter and believes it too closely follows the charters of other county governments.
Bill Wills, a former county supervisor representing Amsterdam and a member of the Charter Commission, spoke while supervisors were in the caucus, stating they were "playing into our hands" by making these decisions behind closed doors.
"There is no dominant voice here," Wills said.
The new charter would have nine district legislators who would be elected for three-year terms. A limit of four consecutive terms is placed on the legislator.
The legislator's job would be to cover all matters related to legislation, appropriation and determining policy for the county.
The county executive would be elected for a four-year term, with a maximum term limit of three consecutive full terms. The executive post would be a full-time position, with a rule in place saying the executive would hold no other elected public or elected political office during his term.
The executive's powers and duties would include responsibilities such as executing and enforcing all laws and resolutions of the legislature, exercising supervision and control over all administrative departments, offices and agencies of the county government.
The executive would have the ability to approve and veto any votes by the legislature. The executive also would have the ability to appoint officials for all county departments not administered by elected officials. All appointments must be be approved by the new legislature.
Arthur Cleveland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org