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Panel recommends 4-year terms for Chautauqua County legislators

MAYVILLE – The Chautauqua County Charter and Code Review Commission members are recommending that terms for members of the Legislature be increased from two to four years.

A presentation on the proposal was provided at the regular meeting of the County Legislature held Wednesday in the chambers of the Gerace Office Building.

The increase in the term length would begin in 2018 if approved by the voters. Members of the Legislature would need to approve the change first, before it is placed on a ballot.

Among the other areas in the summary was a suggestion for a local law that would require a 60 percent affirmative vote for use of any part of the fund balance which causes the balance to be less than 5 percent of gross revenues.

Ellen Ditonto, a member of the committee, spoke to the formal report. The seven charter review committee members have been working on the list of recommendations for more than a year.

“Once every ten years when the census data reaches us ... we have to redistrict,” said Ditonto. She said areas for legislative districts have become a controversial issue in the past. “We want to condense the time period for redistricting from six to three months,” she added.

She said committee members also suggested that the members of the Board of Elections should be asked for input on new district boundaries so they can consider polling places for voters.

The committee recommended that a salary commission review the salary of the county executive, sheriff and county clerk, who are elected. “We hope you will take these recommendations seriously,” said Ditonto.

Also on the County Legislature agenda was the Chautauqua County Planning Board report on proposed capital projects. The Planning Board members reviewed 23 projects valued at more than $13 million. Planning Board Chairman Doug Bowen presented the prioritized list of projects requested and the suggested projects for completion. Maintenance of roads and bridges were priorities on the list.

Bowen suggested to the Legislature members that more funds should be designated for infrastructure repairs.

Chautauqua County will contribute to the cost of rehabilitating the breakwater in the city of Dunkirk. A grant of $100,000 funded by proceeds in the account that receives taxes from hotels was approved by members.

Originally, $40,000 was proposed to help the city pay for the cost, but a motion to amend the amount to $100,000 was approved by the Planning and Economic Development Committee. Legislator Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk, said Dunkirk Councilman Willie Rosas moved forward on the request to ask for assistance from the city. The motion was passed by a unanimous vote.

County emergency services personnel and New York State Department of Health officials had been watching the wall, which is part of the foundation of the Dunkirk Water Treatment Plant. A collapse of the wall could have put the water intake pipe in peril. Emergency repairs were authorized in May and were completed recently.