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Orchard Park downsizes Voters OK three-member Town Board, Gaughan's third win

Kevin Gaughan is three-for-three.

Orchard Park became the third Erie County town to approve downsizing, as residents voted to eliminate two Town Board members during a referendum Wednesday.

The vote was 2,034-1,063 in favor of the measure that will reduce the five-member board by two members starting Jan. 1, 2012.

"I've never been so proud to be a Western New Yorker," said Kevin Gaughan, who brought the measure to the ballot in Orchard Park.

He also ran successful votes to downsize the Town Boards in West Seneca and Evans in June. Alden residents will vote on the same thing from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday in Town Hall. A downsizing vote is expected to be scheduled in Hamburg in November.

The reduced Orchard Park Town Board will consist of a supervisor and two board members. The seats now held by Nancy Ackerman and Edward Graber would be eliminated.

"I think voters were voting on the frustration with other levels of government," Ackerman said Wednesday night. "If they were angry with us, they were simply misinformed about what goes on in Orchard Park."

After the vote tallies for the four machines were announced in the basement meeting room of the Orchard Park Municipal Building, Gaughan walked over to shake Ackerman's hand before heading upstairs to the lobby to greet supporters.

He thanked the "remarkable corps of brothers and sisters" in the town who worked to get the measure on the ballot and promote it.

"You can feel the presence of those wonderful folks who first dreamt of this town and then built it," he said. "I think they're so proud tonight that Orchard Park took this stand."

Erie County Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr said about 50 affidavit ballots and about 200 absentee ballots remain to be counted.

The turnout appeared to be about 15 percent of eligible voters, lower than what had been experienced in West Seneca.

"I'm sorry that so few people voted," Ackerman said. "That's pathetic, in a town of 27,000 people, so few people could make this happen. This is apathy at its worst."

But there was a steady stream of residents walking down the stairs to the voting room. Voters, many of them senior citizens, began lining up about 20 minutes before polls were scheduled to open at 11 a.m.

Some had criticized the Town Board for scheduling the vote in a single polling place and for limited hours.

Gaughan estimated that about 200 people were waiting in line by the time the first ballot was cast, with the line snaking out the door. Town Clerk Janis Colarusso placed the number at closer to 60 but acknowledged that she was inside the Municipal Building and didn't see the extent of the crowd.

Polls didn't open until about 11:10 a.m. Colarusso said the morning got off to a rough start but added that the situation was under control soon after. "We got our bearings," she said.

Gaughan spent part of the day greeting residents in the parking lot behind the Municipal Building as they arrived, thanking them for voting, shaking hands and planting a kiss on a cheek here and there.

Reactions to Gaughan were mixed.

One man walked up to him to shake his hand, saying, "You know how you thank a soldier for serving? Well, thank you for doing this."

Many other people offered Gaughan a thumbs-up or wished him luck.

Others, though, were clear in their disdain for him. One man walked stiffly past Gaughan, refusing to shake his hand. A woman getting into her car, just after Gaughan thanked her for voting, said caustically, "Oh, you don't want to thank me."

In the evening, one man who identified himself only as a concerned citizen, greeted voters as the counterbalance to Gaughan.

"A dollar 66 -- that's all you'll save. What's the price of freedom?" he said.

Virginia Bristol cast her ballot against the downsizing. She favors smaller government, she said but fears that three board members are too few to run the town effectively.

Bristol waited as long as 30 minutes to vote, but she wasn't complaining about the wait.

"It's really quite a good turnout," she said. "It shows people care."

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com and mpasciak@buffnews.com

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3 victories so far

Scorecard on how Kevin Gaughan?s initiatives to downsize town boards are going:

West Seneca and Evans:

On June 5, residents vote overwhelmingly in favor of downsizing.

In West Seneca, the vote was 6,245 to 4,252.

In Evans, it was 2,222 to 1,326.

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Orchard Park:

Voters approved downsizing Wednesday by a 2,034 to 1,063 vote.

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Next:

Alden residents will cast ballots from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday in Alden Town Hall, 3311 Wende Road.

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