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An amendment unanimously adopted this week by the Franklinville Village Board will relax restrictions in a 1999 law that requires all employees to reside within the village.

During a public hearing that yielded comments on both sides of the issue, Board members and Mayor Judy L. Harrington repeated several times that they preferred to hire village residents and will continue to do so whenever possible.

The 1999 law gave outside employees one year to move into the village, but the amendment will allow that deadline to be extended in cases of proven hardships.

The amendment sets up new procedures for dismissal and a hearing for workers who are found to be out of compliance. They may be eligible for reinstatement once they establish residency. Provisions also allow a full waiver to be granted if there are no qualified applicants or if the residency is not an important consideration for the position.

Among those who voiced opposition was former Public Works Superintendent Larry Agett. He urged enforcement of the 1999 law with no changes and presented a petition with 52 signatures.

Businessman Joe Bellaus presented a written statement that pointed to possible safety hazards and lack of response times if employees are not on hand to respond in an emergency.

He and several others in the audience urged promotions from within and the establishment of training programs, warning that hiring of nonresidents would mean paychecks would be spent elsewhere and property tax revenues would go to other jurisdictions.

"It is not only demeaning to us as people, but it's demeaning to our children," Bellaus said.

But former Trustee Rich Larsson urged hiring the best possible applicants, describing the 1999 law as a handicap in the search for them.

He added that passage of the residency law was one regret he carries from his term on the board, recalling the personal sacrifice made by Village Police Chief Tony Wolfer whose job forced him to sell his home less than four miles away for the move into the village.

Retired Buffalo firefighter and resident Ed Meyer urged the amendment's passage, pointing out a state law that allows municipalities to waive restrictive police hiring practices in communities having less than 50 employees.

In other business, officials agreed to appoint Patrolman Kenneth Rice to fill the full-time vacancy on the police force.

The board also voted to support the Franklinville Snowsled Club in its bid to obtain $22,000 in grant funding, aided by the Seneca Trail Resource Conservation and Development Agency.

If obtained, the club will build an 80-foot long covered timber bridge across Saunders Creek on Franklinville Central School and Ten Broeck Academy athletic fields, to become part of the State Snowmobile Plan and trail system. When completed, the system will link Letchworth and Allegany state parks. The club will contribute 1,000 hours of labor and bridge cover materials if the grant is awarded.

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