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Upsizing vote in Orchard Park may be this year

Orchard Park could be the next town to increase the number of people on its Town Board.

The board voted Wednesday to place the measure on the November general election ballot. But it turns out that vote doesn't count.

New York State law has changed, and the Town Board had to have a vote 90 days before the election to place it on the ballot, said Ralph Mohr, Erie County elections commissioner. The vote came too late, he said.

But there is a second means of placing a referendum on the ballot: a petition. And a small group of residents, including two former board members, did submit petitions last month requesting a public vote to increase the size of the board. The group collected 1,441 signatures, twice as many as necessary.

Mohr said he has not yet received anything from the town, but he has heard it is en route. He said the petitions must be filed between 75 and 60 days before the Nov. 5 election.

"I'm told it was filed within that time frame," he said. "If that's the case, it would go on the election ballot."

Mohr said Orchard Park Town Clerk Remy Orffeo is the official who validates the petition, since it is a town proposition. Once the Erie County Board of Elections receives the paperwork, it should go on the ballot, he said.

And former Town Board Member Nan Ackerman is hoping residents will favor the upsizing.

Hers was one of two seats eliminated when Orchard Park residents voted in 2009 to downsize the board, on the theory that smaller government would save money, increase transparency and encourage more citizen involvement.

It was a blow for Ackerman, who had served on the board for years. But she's not advocating a larger board so she can regain her old seat.

"I think it's time to go back to having more people thinking about issues," she said, adding quickly, "I have no interest in being that person."

At one time in the last seven years, five towns in Erie County reduced the number of representatives from five to three: one supervisor and two councilman. Since then, two voted to return to a supervisor and four councilmen: Hamburg and West Seneca. Evans and Alden also downsized to three-member boards.

All three current board members signed the petition, she said.

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