Weekly Feature

2006-03-22 / Editorial

Bee Editorial

Lengthy meetings unnecessary, ludicrous

2:45 a.m. That is when the Amherst Town Board finally managed to wrap things up

at its meeting Monday, March 20. Or, should we say, Tuesday, March 21. It was ridiculous.

The meeting began promptly at 7:30 p.m. and while some very important business was taken care of, we found the length of the meeting ludicrous.

Our biggest beef was the moronic way the board handled the consent agenda. It's a process that should take only minutes to approve. A consent agenda includes routine business items such as committee appointments, travel approvals, and the approval of concerts and permits, which don't require much discussion. In fact, if there is a discussion at all it should take place during the board's work session, prior to the voting meeting. It's all public record, but the board votes once.

The board has approved use of a consent agenda twice - first on Feb. 27, then again on March 20. Yet, confusion still abounds, and the supervisor seems afraid to let go of his control on even the smallest of items. He refused several requests Monday to use the consent agenda and instead, again went item by item only to be told most were routine approvals.

It's appalling. Town Board meetings should not go on for seven hours and 45 minutes - this was one of the longest on record. There is no reason for it. Talking for more than 10 minutes about miniscule items, such as a mobile home permit in an already approved development, is a waste of time, not to mention taxpayer money.

Why a waste of money? It's because a custodial worker needs to remain past the end of his shift, which is midnight, in order to lock up the building. Monday night, that worker made about three hours of overtime. At $27.89 an hour, he made $83.67 above his normal wage of $18.59 an hour. Had the consent agenda been adhered to, that overtime pay would have been cut. So much for saving money.

Board members will argue about the cost of sending employees away for necessary training, but have no qualms about paying a building maintenance worker three hours of overtime just to wait for them to stop talking about things that should have been discussed at a work session. These discussions should not take place at one or two in the morning.

Board members are willing to keep public comment down to a minimum, but not their own.

There should be less inane chatter and patting oneself on the back and more action. Use the consent agenda and let everyone go home at a reasonable hour. It should be noted that one board member - William A. O'Loughlin Jr. - left early at 12:30 a.m. Not all of us can afford to take a nap the next morning and go into work late - as the supervisor did.

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