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HEARING TO AIR BALLOT SPOT FOR WARD SYSTEM

The Amherst Democrat chairman and a key lieutenant were to ask a state judge today to let voters decide in November whether the Town Board should be changed to a ward system.

Currently, the board's six members run at large.

State Supreme Court Justice Rose H. Sconiers Monday ordered attorneys for Amherst Town Clerk Susan Jaros, the Town Board and the county Board of Election to explain why she shouldn't place the ward-system issue on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Already on the Nov. 3 ballot for Amherst voters is a proposal to replace the town's appointed comptroller with an elected one.

Dennis E. Ward, town Democratic chairman and the brother of Town Board Member Daniel J. Ward, said he went to court because even though no challenges were filed two weeks ago on the ward proposal, the Elections Board has yet to put it on the ballot.

Dennis Ward, a proponent of the ward representation plan, which has been defeated three times since first put before voters in 1981, said the Elections Board "just sat" on valid petitions filed with the town clerk's office Sept. 3.

Daniel Ward, a former Amherst supervisor who favors an elected comptroller, also supports the ward system.

Dennis Ward and Geraldine H. Simmons, a Democratic town committee member active in the petition drive, said they filed a petition with the town clerk on Sept. 3, containing more than the required number of valid signatures.

Ward said that even though no objections were filed with the town clerk's office within a three-day period mandated by state election law after the filing of such a ballot proposal, Ms. Jaros sent the matter to the county Elections Board for "a determination of its validity."

The Town Board, which meets tonight, also has failed to act on the matter and, under state election law, the issue has to be resolved by the end of this month or the proposal cannot be placed on the November ballot, Ward said.

Town Attorney Phillip A. Thielman, on behalf of the Amherst town government, and Alan P. Gerstman, first deputy county attorney and attorney for the Elections Board, declined to comment.

Dennis Ward contends Amherst residents would be served better with Town Board members each representing a specific portion of the town. He contends neighborhood issues are sometimes lost under the current system and some areas of town lack representation.

Foes of the ward system contend it would pit one neighborhood against another, is operationally inappropriate and would make town government more "political."

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