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Effort To Reduce Oneida County Board Moves Ahead

Utica, NY (WIBX) – Oneida County’s Courts, Laws and Rules Committee narrowly pushed through the recommendation of another committee that may eventually result in the county board being reduced from 29 legislators to 23.

It is the recommendation of the Reapportionment Committee to cut the board by that many seats despite census figures that show the county’s population is holding relatively steady.

Now that it’s been allowed to move forward, the recommendation heads to the Ways and Means Committee, and after that, to the full county board. Voters would have final say in the board cut, if it’s gets that far.

What legislators think

Eight of the nine member of the Courts, Laws and Rules Committee attended Tuesday’s meeting and voted, which left the potential for a tie. Committee vice chairman Brian Miller (R-16) voted to push the recommendation through, making it a 5 to 3 vote, although he does not support it.

“It should be moved forward. We have 29 legislators on this board that should have an opportunity to debate, discuss and share their opinions, not just the eight members that were here on this board,” Miller said.

About a dozen legislators who are not on this particular committee attended last night’s meeting to express their feelings and hear what others thought.

Committee member Michael Waterman (R-5) doesn’t believe the board needs to be cut at all. While some have said there is growing public desire to reduce all levels of government, Waterman said he didn’t agree based, in part, upon the results of informal poll he took with 40 people in his legislative district, he said.

Waterman said none of those he questioned knew the right answer to the first part of the poll, “How many legislators are on the county board?”

Waterman, whose district covers four municipalities, three fire companies and 161 square miles, feels their board’s efforts should be directed in other areas that could offer savings.

“We spend $143,000 a day on Medicaid, we’re spinning our wheels in the wrong direction,” Waterman said regarding the estimated $50,000 in annual savings the board would see from reducing six legislators.

Michael Clancy (D-12), is member of the Reapportionment Committee which made the recommendation to cut six, but did not vote for it.

“I’ve [already] got two towns, three neighborhood watches, four fire departments, five school districts, I’m appointed to three additional boards, I’m on five standing committees, I was on two additional committees,” Clancy said. “I enjor it. I’m not asking for more money, but to put that much more on [us], when you have a system that’s not failing…I don’t think there’s any real good reason to do it.”

Peter Carucci (D-26) believes the savings are limited and questioned the purpose behind reducing the board, asking if the move to cut the board was ‘symbolic’. Carucci also said he’d like to see the new district lines, which officials have said are not yet drawn up.

The Reappotionment committee must also re-draw district lines every ten years, members said. But process of redrawing those lines hasn’t begun yet, members said.

Legislators James D’Nofrio (R-15) and Patrick Brennan (R-3) both said they believed the board should be cut to 19 members. Such a cut would ‘increase accountability’, D’Onfrio said. Being one of 29 members allows legislators to ‘hide’ sometimes, he said.

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