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Hearing set on districts for county

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - Updated: 6:30 PM


Recorder News Staff

FONDA -- At a special meeting Tuesday, the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors voted to schedule a public hearing on establishing nine districts for the new county legislature.

The hearing will take place Jan. 22 at 6:45 p.m. in the supervisors chambers at the county office building on Broadway.

The resolution establishing the public hearing includes the metes and bounds that detail the nine-district map endorsed by the county Charter Commission, though there was resistance from some supervisors who would like to see a different map used.

County Senior Planner Doug Greene reviewed the map and some minor revisions needed to give the districts equal populations within a five percent margin. Commission member Vincent Stark then explained the difficult task of creating the maps in a way that complied with state law, while attempting to keep communities of interest together.

Board Chairman and Root Supervisor John Thayer, Palatine Supervisor Brian Sweet and Minden Supervisor Thomas Quackenbush voted against the resolution, citing a desire to have the map closest to the board's ideal before presenting it to the public to comment on it.

Quackenbush expressed his dissatisfaction with the commission's map in concerns about the impact it will have on election districts.

"It's not gerrymandering," Quackenbush said. "It's keeping people consistent with regard to voting."

In his own case, Quackenbush said he would have to vote in separate districts for town supervisor and legislator, an issue Republican election Commissioner Terrance Smith said would be rectified by creating special ballots for those voters.

Smith said he did find one area of the map problematic, however, noting as it currently stands, an election district in Fort Plain would be for only five voters.

It's anticipated the Board of Elections will consult with Greene in the upcoming weeks before the public hearing to identify shortcomings the map has in regard to election districts.

"Forty days is a lot of time to sit down and iron it out," said Glen Supervisor Lawrence Coddington, who's opposed to changing the map endorsed by the commission. He and other supervisors believe the constituency likely used that in making its decision on the referendum approved last month.

Sweet presented a map draft he said would reduce a district's likelihood of having up to three legislators for one township, to one or two legislators. He thinks that would keep communities together better than the commission's map.

"For a town supervisor to have to deal with three legislators would be difficult," Sweet said. "It's not gerrymandering."

"A county legislator is supposed to vote as a county legislator on county issues with county solutions -- not to represent five people here or there," said Coddington. "We're only voting on the public hearing. It's not guaranteeing these districts, because if there's a room full of people here who want things changed, we can make some changes."

Quackenbush wondered why the commission didn't opt to use a map reviewed at a charter commission meeting in May.

Stark said that map couldn't be used because by law, one has to be able to traverse an election district in its entirety without leaving the district, and in that map, districts crossed the Mohawk River where there was no bridge.

Both Stark and charter commission Chairman Dustin Swanger said multiple maps were reviewed in narrowing the one chosen.

"Because we worked so hard on the map, and the public asked us where their district might be in the charter, while I recognize the board's authority, I think, by and large, this map influenced the voters' decision," Swanger said. "I believe that as a commissioner and I encourage you to respect that."

It was reported last week there's only one district in which supervisors won't have to compete with one another if they choose to run as legislators, and that's the area Amsterdam 5th Ward Supervisor Michael Chiara currently represents.

According to the resolution, the districts are broken down as follows:

* District No. 1: All of the town of St. Johnsville, the entirety of the town of Minden exclusive of the village of Fort Plain, and parts of the towns of Canajoharie and Palatine.

* District No. 2: Parts of the towns of Palatine, Canajoharie, Minden and Mohawk.

* District No. 3: Parts of the towns of Palatine, Canajoharie and Root.

* District No. 4: All of the towns of Glen and Charleston, and parts of Mohawk.

* District No. 5: All of the town of Florida, and parts of the city of Amsterdam and parts of the towns of Amsterdam and Mohawk.

* District No. 6: Part of the city of Amsterdam.

* District No. 7: Parts of the city of Amsterdam and parts of the town of Amsterdam.

* District No. 8: Parts of the city of Amsterdam and parts of the town of Amsterdam.

* District No. 9: Parts of the city of Amsterdam and parts of the town of Amsterdam.


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