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Gaughan airs ideas for smaller board

With one week to go before another municipality votes on downsizing its town board, Kevin Gaughan provided more details Wednesday night on how a three-member board might work.

His talk at Hilbert College in Hamburg started with a lecture and ended with an exchange of ideas, resembling how he said board meetings might be conducted.

Orchard Park residents will vote next Wednesday on reducing their Town Board to three from five members. A similar vote is scheduled Sept. 29 in Alden, and one in Hamburg is expected in November. They follow votes in Evans and West Seneca in which downsizing was approved.

Gaughan would redesign the town board meeting to a "town meeting," by taking board members off the dais and have them sit with other elected town officials at desks, surrounded by residents. He also would streamline agendas and allow residents to speak with board members about matters before the board.

That's what happened when a Hilbert student challenged him several times, asking whether fewer representatives could lead to increased corruption.

Gaughan showed a slide of a Hamburg senior citizen services van, saying the department name and phone number, rather than the names of the elected Town Board, should be on the side.

But Hamburg Town Board Member Joan Kesner stood up, saying, "That's a very cheap shot."

Kesner, who is leaving the board at the end of the year, said the board has saved millions of dollars by consolidating sewer districts, going to a single health insurance company and instituting an energy audit. She said her salary costs taxpayers 20 cents on their tax bill.

"What you're doing is not enough," Gaughan told her.

"You may not have all the answers, but at least you're giving impetus to voters to have a voice," one man told Gaughan.

With that, Gaughan thanked the audience for the exchange of ideas, and the two-hour discussion ended.

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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