COOPERSTOWN — Members of the public will get their say about Otsego County’s plan to hire a county administrator, as the Board of Representatives has set a public hearing for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, in the county meeting room on the second floor at 197 Main St.
The board unanimously approved the hearing on a local law to create the position at its November meeting.
Rep. Keith McCarty, R-Richfield, Springfield, was not at the meeting.
There will also be public sessions at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, at Oneonta City Hall on Main Street in Oneonta and 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19, at the Otsego County Courthouse on Main Street in Cooperstown. *
The proposed law will be voted on Dec. 4, during the board’s monthly meeting.
Intergovernmental Affairs Chair Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick, Milford, New Lisbon, said her committee came up with the job description for an administrator after nearly two years of committee meetings studying the structure of local governments in Otsego, and around the state.
She said the committee learned Otsego was unique in New York, with the structure of a legislature but the voting proportions of a board of supervisors, and no executive branch, other than a board chair.
IGA committee members spoke at length during their committee report, about the process of picking an administrator over a county executive, which would have required Otsego to adopt a county charter.
Kennedy said there will be two public information forums before the public hearing and board vote, one in Oneonta, and one in the courthouse next door to the county offices in Cooperstown. The days and times for those meetings will be announced soon, she said.
The position is expected to have a salary of about $100,000 plus about $50,000 in benefits and taxes, and will require candidates to have experience in public administration.
Other than the committee report, the longest conversation about the position Wednesday, came when several members objected to a narrow list of majors a candidate could have degrees in to qualify. The long dispute, at the end of a meeting more than four hours long, was finally broken with the addition of a qualifier in the requirements.
A county administrator would report to the board chair and greater Board of Representatives. The administrator would not “diminish the authority of the county Board of Representatives,” but would instead act as a day-to-day overseer and manager of county affairs.
Budget, grants and coordination with department heads would be among the position duties.
The board also set a public hearing for the 2020 budget for 6 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 26, in the courthouse.
The board also discussed the proposed 5 cent fee on using paper bags, which the state passed as part of its plastic bag ban. The state law, which goes into effect March 1, allows municipalities to opt-in on the paper fee. However, only a few areas around New York City have opted in so far, with about half of all upstate counties declining the option already.
The fees would be split between state and county conservation efforts, with county money earmarked for reusable bag purchase and distribution, especially to low-income residents.
Board Vice Chair Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta, said the state law was poorly written, but opting in was the right thing to do, and would send a message, since so few counties have done so.
“I think we should start out by stipulating the law as written by Albany is one of the poorest-written and least-thought-out laws we have seen in a long time,” he said. However, he called the issue a “slam dunk” and said Otsego could use the passage as leverage to get changes in a rewritten law.
Several other representatives replied they thought there was more leverage in not passing a flawed law, and instead telling the state why there are no opt-ins.
Finally, supporters of opting in agreed to table the proposal and attempt to encourage the state to rework the law.
Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7218.
*changed at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 14 to add in additional public hearings