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Board panel will review two-term limit for elected officials

The Amherst Town Board wants to re-examine its current two-term limit policy.

Council Member Mark Manna introduced a resolution Monday asking the Government Study Committee to review town term limits for elected officials and provide recommendations.

"We're committed to having term limits," Manna said. "The question is, is two the right amount?"

Council Member Steven Sanders, who co-sponsored the resolution with Manna, said he is open-minded about whether terms should still be limited, maybe for a different length of time, or whether they should be eliminated.

He noted that the term-limit rules were adopted before residents voted to downsize the board to five members. Six members are currently serving, but another seat will be eliminated during the next Town Board election.

Town judges are currently exempt from term limits, but council members, the supervisor, the town clerk and the highway superintendent are not.

The current board is the first to be subject to the town's two-term limit. The previous council members who passed the term-limits law had grandfathered in all the previous terms they served, including the one they were serving at the time.

The Government Study Committee is expected to make recommendations within 60 days.

In other action, the board:

*Voted 5-1 to rezone nine-tenths of an acre of a 1.9-acre property at Youngs and Maple roads as "multifamily residential." This would permit construction of two, two-story apartment buildings with a combined nine "upscale" apartments.

Several neighboring residents spoke out against the project Monday, but council members said they were happy with the zoning and deed restrictions placed on the property.

Lawyer Sean Hopkins, speaking on behalf of developer Paul Bliss, said that to address resident concerns, the developer reduced the density of the apartment complex and agreed to improve landscaping along Youngs and the buildings' architecture in the rear.

The 1,500-square-foot, three-bedroom units would rent for a minimum of $1,650 a month, Bliss said.

A hearing on the project was held in February. A protest petition was filed by neighbors, requiring a five-vote "supermajority" to pass the rezoning resolution.

Manna voted against the project, citing neighborhood opposition.

*Approved a new contract with the Amherst Employees Association that is expected to cost the town $916,486. The association covers 55 union employees who perform sewage maintenance and treatment work for the Engineering Department. The old contract expired in 2007.

The new contract, which runs through 2014, includes many union concessions, particularly for new hires. It ends fully paid health insurance for all employees, increases insurance co-pays, and eliminates clothing allowances and two paid holidays.

New employees would also be subject to a lower pay scale, 20 percent contributions to health insurance, and reduced vacation and sick days.

In exchange, current union members would receive cumulative raises of 6 percent over the life of the contract, based on the 2006 salary scale, plus retroactive bonuses of $1,500 per year since 2007 (up to $7,500). These lump sums would not change employees' base salaries. The contract also guarantees the current minimum staffing levels for the duration of the contract.

Council Member Guy Marlette, who helped lead negotiations, thanked everyone for their hard work to get the deal done.

*Approved a $3.1 million bond for improvements to the town's Wastewater Treatment Plant.

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