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Hamburg showed why three person boards fail

Let’s just preface the following by noting that at this time, the Hamburg Town Board is still technically in an executive session, and has been since about 6:15 p.m. on Monday, June 11.

This is because what was already a precarious position the board was in due to Town Supervisor Steven Walters being absent because he was out of town ended in chaos when Councilman Joseph Collins, upset about allegations he claims were made against him during the executive session, ultimately left not feeling well.

To the surprise of the many people in attendance for what was supposed to be a 7 p.m. regular meeting, there was only one board member – Amy Ziegler – who sat down. She informed the shocked crowd that Collins had left and there would be no regular meeting that evening.

Wouldn’t those two vacant seats last held by former Councilmen Kevin Smardz and Jon Gorman have looked good about then, having two councilmembers that could help create a quorum, or a majority, to help pass resolutions and keep the Town of Hamburg government functioning?

Instead, many people were impacted by the lack of action taken in proposed resolutions that night because the nearly estimated $50,000 that is not in the current year’s budget and the miniscule savings to taxpayers (we believe is less than a dollar per household) means that by the time the next Hamburg Town Board comes around on June 25, it will be six weeks in between regular board meetings. How is a three-person board bringing about positive change to the Town of Hamburg and its residents?

We are pretty sure the three pages of part-time seasonal employees who assumed their employment with the recreation department this summer was a foregone conclusion probably were not happy to learn their status will depend on either an emergency meeting or emergency appointment?

Issues that did not get voted on last Monday ranged from rezoning property, refunding a man who initially sought a building permit and changed his mind, the creation of a weather station, and an appointment to a volunteer board and a volunteer seeking membership into the Woodlawn Fire Co., among 20 resolutions.

The board already had cancelled what would normally have been its second meeting in May due to Memorial Day.

It is a safe bet most of the impacted people would gladly have offered that $1 in savings from their tax bill to create a quorum and not have to wait two weeks for their issues to be resolved by the Hamburg Town Board.

The bottom line is simple. This concept is failing and boards that currently hold three members need to get back up to five in order for local government to function correctly.

It already puts board members in a difficult position knowing that if two of them discuss town-related issues outside of a town board meeting or work session then those members could be in violation of open meetings laws.

When voters decided to make the board smaller, a large premise was that it was saving them money. But now it is creating situations, not just scenarios, where government is not working. It is beginning to affect people who are awaiting board approval on items before they can officially move forward with whatever endeavor the action called for.

Last Monday, Walters had an excused absence. Nothing wrong with that. Collins was suddenly not feeling well. That can also be considered reasonable. And with that goes another 14 days for items to be voted on.

This is certainly not the way a government in charge of impacting 57,000 people should operate. It is time to get three-person boards back to five, so governments can operate efficiently.

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