WATERLOO — The Seneca County Board of Supervisors is making a big change in the way the public can comment at its meetings.
Supervisors voted 11-2 Tuesday to allow county residents the privilege of speaking at a board meeting without obtaining prior approval.
Michael Reynolds, R-Covert, and Lee Davidson, R-Lodi, were opposed. Steve Churchill, D-Seneca Falls, missed the meeting.
Under the change, speakers would be limited to five minutes. Their opportunity to talk would come after the petitioners and presentations section of the agenda at the start of meetings.
The change takes effect for the board’s Jan. 10 meeting. It applies only to full Board of Supervisors meetings.
Currently, anyone wishing to address the board must sign up five days in advance of a meeting and get placed on the agenda.
The change was pushed by Fayette Supervisor Cindy Lorenzetti, chairwoman of the board’s Government Operations Committee.
“This could be good, but the chairman should be careful how this is monitored,” said Greg Lazzaro, R-Seneca Falls. “Things could get emotional. and we must not have many speakers saying the same thing. I will support this, but we should look at the standards for public comments by the New York State Association of Counties.”
“I support this,” said Greg Wadhams, R-Junius. “I haven’t seen many abuses.”
Others wanted to make sure the time limit is enforced strictly.
“If there is a hot topic, I would hope there will be a lot of discussion,” Lorenzetti said. “We need to listen to the public.”
Earlier, petitioner John Dendis of Waterloo expressed support for the change.
“Having people sign up five days before the agenda comes out is a problem,” Dendis said. “If anyone votes no on this, it says they can’t bother with what people say and that should be remembered at election time.”
In other matters Tuesday:
LANDFILL — Dendis told supervisors it’s time for the county to do something about Seneca Meadows Landfill and its ongoing odor issue.
“I’ve lived near the landfill since 1983 on Burgess Road,” Dendis relayed. “I’m not a landfill hater, but a year ago, the odor got worse. Last Christmas was a disaster, so I talked to (Seneca Meadows District Manager) Kyle Black, who told me it was a plugged line.”
Dendis said Black assured him it would be corrected. After spending part of the winter in the South, Dendis said the situation hadn’t improved when he returned.
“Something needs to be done,” Dendis implored. “ ... It’s now a quality-of-life issue. When you can’t enjoy your home, when its not a safe place, something has to be done.
“I don’t blame Seneca Falls; they want their taxes kept down. This is no longer a town issue. It affects a larger area. If it smells bad, then close the gates.”
SALARIES — Supervisors voted 13-0 to approve 2 percent pay increases for 25 employees not represented by a union and whose job titles are not included on the salary schedule. See the accompany sidebar for other raises that were approved Tuesday.
APPOINTMENT — By a 13-0 vote, the board reappointed Kathy Corona of Waterloo to a six-year term as personnel officer. Her new term expires Dec. 31, 2022.
DRIVERS — The South County Transportation Corps will continue to contract with the Cayuga-Seneca Community Action Agency for payment of drivers who provide rides to residents in Covert, Lodi, Ovid and Romulus. The drivers are paid 54 cents per mile for use of their personal vehicles. The service will expand to Varick and Fayette in 2017.
The program, which began in July 2016, has 11 drivers. The budget to pay those drivers is $5,400 a year.
ENERGY — Supervisors introduced a local law to exempt solar, wind and farm-waste energy systems from the tax exemption provided for by the state’s real property tax law. A public hearing on the local law will be conducted at 6 p.m. Jan. 10.
David Kaiser, R-Romulus, was the sole supervisor who voted against introducing the local law.