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CONTROVERSY BREWING OVER POSITION OF ADMINISTRATOR

The proposal to create a Hamburg village administrator is on the verge of creating as much controversy as the proposal to abolish the Police Department earlier this year.

The administrator's position should be subject to a referendum, said Roger Wilcox, volunteer counsel for the Village of Hamburg Citizens Committee.

Members of the committee met Wednesday night in the Hamburg American Legion to discuss the proposed local law. Several said they are concerned that an unnecessary buffer would be created between the people and the Village Board.

They also want to ask the Village Board how the proposal came about, why it is needed in the village, and if it will save money.

A public hearing on the proposed local law will be held at 8:15 p.m. Monday in Village Hall.

Wilcox said his research shows that the duties of the administrator would be virtually the same as those of a village manager.

"Duty-wise, function-wise, these are the same animal," Wilcox said.

According to state law, he said, a village manager's position can only be created after residents petition a Village Board asking for the position. If this provision is not applicable, Wilcox said he believes once the board creates the position state law still provides for a permissive referendum.

"I don't believe it is," Village Attorney Robert G. Walsh told The Buffalo News.

But if the Village Board discovers the proposed local law is subject to a referendum, that would not cause a problem, Walsh said.

"We're at the early stages of putting it together," he said of the proposal. "More and more villages are tending to fill that position."

Wilcox said if a referendum is not conducted, residents would have no choice but to challenge the Village Board action in State Supreme Court.

Perry Ross, co-chairman of the citizens group, said he is concerned about the apparent transfer of responsibilities from the mayor and trustees to the administrator.

"Why is there suddenly a need for this?" he said. "No one knew this was going to happen."

The board scheduled the public hearing Oct. 21 and said the administrator would be the chief fiscal officer and run the daily affairs of the village.

Walsh noted the proposal comes in the wake of the recent retirement of Clerk-Treasurer Coleta A. Glass. He said the proposed administrator probably would formalize many of the duties that Ms. Glass undertook.

With the intense pace of today's municipal obligations, a full-time on-site administrator is needed to keep the village running smoothly, he said.

"Communities we've talked to who have it can't say enough about it," Walsh said.

But members of the citizens group, many who successfully challenged the Village Board's abolishment of the Police Department, vowed to have their questions answered by the board.

Some also said they see the possible merit in having an administrator, but question the procedure being used to create it.

"The greater the voice we have, then the more likely it is we can be heard," said Don Po-Chedley, co-chairman of the citizen's group.

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