Bethlehem clarifies residency requirements

Town board also drops longevity payments for elected positions

— The Bethlehem Town Board made changes to a local law that would establish residency requirements for certain town officials.

The measure was passed on Tuesday, Nov. 26, with unanimous support from town board members following a public hearing. No members of the community spoke in favor or against the proposed changes.

Supervisor John Clarkson had previously said the town law already had a provision in place but was not very specific about which positions were covered. All elected officials must live in the town, but the provision covering other employees wasn’t as clear. The new requirements will more closely follow state law.

At a previous meeting, Clarkson pushed for the residency requirements, pointing out the issues that can happen when a local law supersedes state law on the issue. As an example, he pointed to former Bethlehem Supervisor Jack Cunningham becoming the Colonie Commissioner of Public Works even though he didn’t live in the town.

At the Nov. 26 meeting, residency was established for department heads and most board positions in the town, but some positions can be grandfathered in for exemptions, such as those of long-term employees. The town can also waive the requirement if officials are looking for a certain skill-set that isn’t found within the town.

According to the memorandum, the town “will continue to recruit broadly and will make every effort to identify qualified town residents for town positions. Out-of-town applicants for these position will be told that relocation to Bethlehem will be necessary unless the Town of Bethlehem or town justices ... are willing to grant a specific waiver.”

Employee salaries

At the same meeting, the town board considered a change to the town policy for longevity payments of elected officials.

Longtime employees often receive longevity payments as part of promotions in addition to step increases and cost-of-living adjustments. Employees who have worked for the town for some time and then have run for elected office, such as former Highway Superintendent Gregg Sagendorph, have been eligible for these increases.

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