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Effort to study switch to legislature form of government in Warren County dies

Another effort to study whether Warren County should switch from having a board of supervisors to a county legislature has died before it got any traction.

The county’s Governmental Operations and Advocacy Committee on Monday decided to end further discussions of the matter.

Glens Falls 1st Ward Supervisor Claudia Braymer, the minority leader, was seeking support to create a commission to review the charter. Braymer believes that a legislature made up of people elected to represent specific regions of the county would be better than a board made up for supervisors from individual towns.

The current system has remained in place since New York state was founded, according to Braymer.

“Knowing that we have a budget of $160 million and that we have lot of professional departments, we should have a chance to look at our county structure and see if there is something we can be doing to run our county more effectively, more efficiently and professionally as we can,” she said at Monday’s meeting.

Of the 57 counties outside of New York City, 39 have county legislatures, according to Warren County Administrator Ryan Moore. Of the counties that are below the median population, which includes Warren County, 15 have legislatures and 14 have boards of supervisors.

Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Mike Wild said this issue has come up again and he said he does not see the need.

“I’ve voiced my concerns before about potentially losing the voice of all the different towns in this county because we are very different — upcounty, downcounty,” he said.

The Bolton, Chester and Warrensburg town boards had passed resolutions opposing any change.

Bolton Supervisor Ronald Conover said the current system is working wonderfully. The county has a strong tax base and finances and the departments are functioning well.

He does not see the need to have another layer of government. A change to a legislature would hurt the smaller communities as their voice would be diminished.

“I think our diversity is our strength. I think we should be celebrating it. Not destroying it,” he said.

Braymer said she is pushing for a change because she does want all the communities to have an equal voice.

However, right now, that is not happening. She said some supervisors have a disproportionate level of influence for the number of constituents they represent.

Braymer added that there is not a lot of overlap between town issues and county issues. Supervisors can handle the day-to-day issues at their towns and could work with their county legislator if there is an issue.

“I am not saying we have a terrible government here. I would say it is frustrating. There are things that maybe are not working as efficiently as they could be. What is the harm of having a commission to look at the options and tell us where we can go from here?” she said.

Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty said he believes the county is running a great operation and was tired of hearing that the county is inefficient.

In the past year, about 60 to 70 people have left the county payrolls.

“I have to question why we’re losing so many people,” Geraghty said.

Majority Leader Doug Beaty said from Jan. 1 to July 31, 41 people resigned, which is about 5.6%. He said that is a “phenomenal” turnover rate, based upon his experience in the retail sector.

“We heard they’re going for better-paying jobs. That happens,” he said.

Wild said he is not sure if the retail sector can be compared to the government sector.

Moore said the resignation rate is actually lower than last year. There were 48 at this point in the year.

Chester Supervisor Craig Leggett shared a slide show presentation from when the county legislature vs. board of supervisors debate came up about five years ago.

He showed a map of the county and said a switch to a legislature would concentrate all the political power in a small corner of the county where Glens Falls and Queensbury is.

The current system works well, according to Leggett.

“There is no outcry from the populace that we change,” he said.

Leggett said the supervisors are intimately familiar with issues such as roads, senior meal programs and public health services.

“I’m very offended by this proposition that somehow a legislature, a legislator is going to be more professional than any one of us. That is totally absurd,” he said.

Leggett said what is needed is a comprehensive plan to guide decision-making. Braymer said she agreed with him on that point.

Braymer said she was not saying the employees or supervisors were not professional. She pointed out that the supervisors were discussing this issue at 2 p.m. after a full morning of committee meetings.

“That’s not efficient. That’s not empowering our department heads to make decisions without a body of 20 telling them what to do,” she said.

The committee agreed in a straw poll to take this topic of studying the form of government off the discussion list.

Michael Goot covers politics, crime and courts, Warren County, education and business. Reach him at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com.

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