Public Hearing to be Held on July 5 for Public Input
At this week's Blooming Grove Town Board Meeting a discussion held last month about restoring sitaggered terms in Blooming Grove was continued. Supervisor Rob Jeroloman emphasized that this is not a new idea. In fact, it has been discussed numerous times over the past 4 1/2 years. The town had staggerd terms previous to implementation of the Ward system of choosing council members according to the section of town they live in. But there has been growing concern that with the entire Town Board contesting new terms at the same time, it would in theory be possible that the entire board could be comprised of new members. Even replacing 2 or 3 members can be a shock to both the board and residents' agreed priorities and standard policies. Deputy Supervisor, Cathy Acevedo made the point that there is always a risk when fiscal matters are being determined and even one or two board members are new and may have little tor no explerience in town finances. Staggered terms would ensure a cycle that in which at least some of the board members would have the historical, policy, and financial knowledge ingrained and able to impart the facts to any newcomers. Just after this board began studying the alternative to return to staggered terms in 2018, COVID came in, and the board felt it was not the time to make any unnecessary big changes. In fact, both Supervisor Rob Jeroloman and Board members Acevedo, Devinko, Schwartz and Amante agreed that having members with solid prior experience had been critical in ensuring the town's ability to remain open throughout the pandemic. Jeroloman said that during the pandemic the first thing they had done was to buy laptops with shared programs and information. This enabled really good communication when it was deemed risky to have gatherings Next was alternating their presence at Town Hall so that continuity would be maintained and an experienced official could be there at all times. Jeroloman pointed out that Town Clerk , Darlena Decker's presence was particularly important because there were a lot of marriages and a lot of deaths as well. This, he said, had enabled the Town to stay open when many others had to close.
The first step in setting up staggered terms again was to determine which wards would seek 4-year terms in the next election, and which would seek only 2 years the first round and then move to 4 years after the 2 years are up, bringing everyone at that point to 4 year terms. At Tuesday, January 6th's board meeting they sought the opinions of Town Attorney Brian Nugent, who recommende that either a ratio of 4 for the first election and then 3, or coversely, 3 for the coming election and 4 for the following one, bearing in mind that 3 members are not seeking re-election this time around (Tom Devinko who is now Mayor of the Village of Washingtonville, Chuck Quick who is retiring), and George Doering who retired earlier this year.. They agreed that wards 2, 3 and 5 would be the best choice for a 2-year term during the next term, while Wards 1, 4 and and 6 would start with a 4-year term. to give the board the added stability. Attorney Nugent said the process could either be done by home rule in a local law, or as a referendum item (which would require a public vote this year). Since the election is not that far away, a public hearing should be held as soon as possible, and the wording must be ready by a date certain. But if the change is made by local law there would not have to be a referendum.
With a requirement that these elections must be held on biennial years, the town could have time for a referendum to be worded. However, they are currently leaning toward doing it by a Home Rule Local Law since there is sufficient time for the public to be informed about it and take part in the decision. Nugent said that this is, in fact, how most towns make the change.
A Public Hearing is scheduled for discussion on the matter on July 5. Final wording of the Law will be ready for viewing by June 27.
As complicated as the process is, it seemed that the process was all set up to work withoutout problem. However, yesteday Senator James Skoufis presented a bill that would require all elections to be held "on even-numbered years". Would that impact the process? Probably not, since this year's election is already on an even-numbered year.
Elections for the positions of Town Clerk and Highway Superintendant would not be impacted at this time and if their terms were changed it would be by a separate process.
In Other Business:
An Escrow Account is being set up so that the Town's Highway Department can do mechanical work for the Village of Washingtonville. This is expected to save somewhere in the neighborhood of 50% of village vehicle repair costs.
The Washingtonville Fireworks Show, for which some donations have been given, is going to be held on July 7. There have already been 14 food trucks scheduled for it, and there will once again be a Country Band.