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Bethlehem committee to investigate ward structure

Idea draws criticism from board, other citizen groups approved

— The Bethlehem Town Board at its Wednesday, Jan. 25, meeting voted to move ahead in forming three citizen advisory committees proposed by Supervisor John Clarkson, with the stipulation that membership be opened up to members of the general public.

Residents will have two weeks to submit their names for the Budget Advisory Group, the Governance Options Study or to consult for the town’s Ethics Board. Those selected will be confirmed at the board’s next meeting on Feb. 8.

Other committees, like a Public Engagement Committee and some recommended by Board Member Kyle Kotary, will be put to a vote at a later date.

“The Budget Advisory Committee, in my mind, has the biggest job of all these groups and needs to start soon,” said Councilwoman Joann Dawson. “It will not be done in June.”

The board still needs to agree on completion dates for the committees and more detailed descriptions of what it expects the committees to study.

Board members had reservations about the Governance Options Committee’s charge to investigate splitting the town into wards. However, all said they would keep an open mind concerning the committee’s findings. Newly appointed member George Lenhardt was not at the meeting because of a previously planned vacation.

“In the course of my election, I don’t remember a single person talking to me of the need to split the town into wards,” said Councilman Jeffery Kuhn in an interview after the meeting. “I don’t know why we would do it. I think there are some compelling reasons why it isn’t a good idea."

Kuhn said as a board member, he feels responsible for oversight of the entire town and not just one portion of it. Kotary said he feels the same way.

“Personally, I disagree with (the proposal). I think it would create a more disjointed and divisive form of government,” he said.

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