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Bethlehem committee to investigate ward structure

Idea draws criticism from board, other citizen groups approved

— Clarkson, however, thinks the issue should be researched since he heard during his campaigning that residents on the outskirts of town often feel underrepresented. He said he feels the system is an interesting option with “many advantages but potentially some disadvantages, too.”

“What I want to see is a good study of its potential from a citizen's group, as well as a lot of public discussion and input. After that process, there should be ample information to either support or not support holding a public referendum,” he said.

Kotary said he does his best to regularly be seen in every part of the town and if certain residents are disenfranchised or unheard, they should “speak louder to let us know what we can do to better serve you.”

According to Kuhn, only about 1 percent or fewer of towns in New York use the ward system of government, and none of them are in the Capital District.

The system calls for the town to be split into four or six wards of equal population, to be drawn by the Board of Elections. Under the state law for towns, this issue could go to a public referendum either through an action of the Town Board or by citizens collecting enough signatures to force a vote.

Clarkson said whether the ward system is implemented or not, he plans to hold several neighborhood forums with topical presentations from town staff, himself and other board members who wish to attend. The forums would start in areas like Selkirk and Glenmont, with residents being given the chance to speak on topics they feel are important.

The Governance Committee may also research the potential of lengthening the term of supervisor from two to fours years. This proposal was brought up by the town’s 20/20 Committee last year along with the idea of making three elected offices appointed positions, but after a public vetting the board voted 3-2 not to advance any of the measures.

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