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Falls Council votes to trim Youth Board to 13 seats Panel was in danger of losing state funds

The City Council voted unanimously on Monday to decrease the number of members required to serve on the city's Youth Board to 13 spots from 18, and then appointed an entire roster of new volunteers to the formerly defunct committee.

"Once we became aware the Youth Board was not up and active we were able to fill it," said Councilman Chris A. Robins. "We probably received over 25 names and I'm thankful for all the people who are getting involved."

The state Office of Children and Family Services decided to sanction the Youth Board in March because it had not garnered enough members or met with a quorum in over two years.

Spokesman Brian Marchetti said earlier this month that if the board did not correct those issues the city wouldn't receive $44,000 in administrative reimbursement or an additional $30,000 for youth programs already allocated to three local nonprofit organizations.

Lawmakers said they hope Monday's actions will reverse the sanction.

The deficiencies were first identified by the Office of Children and Family Services during a December 2005 monitoring visit, and earlier this year the state sent warning letters to Mayor Vince Anello.

Mario Tonellato, the former associate director of the Youth Services Division, said he had been working to find more members for the board before his position was cut from this year's city budget.

Anello said he did not press the issue with the Council because he said lawmakers knew it was their responsibility to keep the board filled, while lawmakers maintain they had no idea the situation was so dire.

Tonellato said he built up the Youth Board from one or two members when he took over in 2003 to seven members in 2005, but maintains that it was difficult to find people willing to volunteer for the board.

During the past two weeks, Councilman Robert Anderson Jr. said the Council office worked with Marc Stott, the city's new supervisor of golf, recreation and youth services, to find appointments for the board.

The board must include two youth members, and Anderson said he plans to keep a roster of 10 adults and six young adults who could be appointed to any vacancies so the city doesn't run into the same situation in the future.

Robins said state officials had recommended the Youth Board be decreased to 13 members, and a record of Monday's actions will be sent to the state.

e-mail: gfranklin@buffnews.com

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