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Forum Tuesday on government overhaul

Bethlehem residents will get their first chance to speak their minds on a proposal to make dramatic changes to town government tomorrow night at a public forum.

There will be a presentation on a report by the town's 2020 Committee that, among other things, recommends making three elected positions appointed and extending the term of the town supervisor from two to four years. The floor will then be opened to public comment.

The report, released last month, calls for making the highway superintendent, the tax receiver and the town clerk appointed by the Town Board instead of elected. The argument was made that this would open the door to consolidation and efficiencies.

Councilman and recently-announced candidate for supervisor Kyle Kotary said it is important to have a conversation on these ideas, but added he's yet to see a compelling argument for what he called a radical reform of town government.

"There are no savings, period, in eliminating elected positions and making them appointed," he said.

At this initial stage, it would appear there is more support for extending the supervisor's term. The committee reached out to four town supervisors who at least tacitly supported it, including current Supervisor Sam Messina.

Voters would have the final say on all the changes. They would be put on the November ballot as separate propositions, but the Town Board must decide by early September if it wishes to place the measures on the ballot.

If any changes were approved, they would affect the political year starting in 2014, not the coming cycle.

The Tuesday, May 24, forum starts at 6 p.m. at St. Stephens Church on Elsmere Avenue in Delmar, and is being organized by the Albany County chapter of the League of Women Voters.

The topic will also be discussed at a June 8 meeting of the Town Board, when the body will try to get through its normal agenda with time left for an open conversation.""

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