The Association of Cities proposes to allow remote meetings at all times

GUILDERLAND – The state’s legislative proposals were discussed by Guilderland City Council at its December 16 meeting, with the board appointing supervisor Peter Barber as the city’s delegate for the association’s annual meeting. cities.

The meeting was scheduled for February 22 and 23 in New York but could be held virtually, as it did in 2021, due to COVID-19.

Dennis Powers of Amherst in Erie County, who chairs the resolutions committee that Barber sits on, has submitted 10 legislative proposals for consideration.

Barber said the two “most questionable” proposals are one calling for changes to the open meetings law to permanently allow remote meetings and another for changing current salary requirements.

Due to the pandemic, public councils were temporarily allowed to hold meetings remotely as long as the public could see or listen to the meetings in real time and the meeting was transcribed.

The proposed resolution says remote meetings “promote efficiency, as issues such as inclement weather, illness and travel are no longer a barrier to achieving quorum.”

The resolution also states that most cities have already invested in the technology needed to hold meetings remotely and that “many cities have reported an increase in audience participation and attendance when meetings are held remotely.” .

“We take a position, it should only be applied during the pandemic,” Barber told the board at its remote meeting on Dec. 16.

He said that with around 700 cities in the state association, there is no unanimous position. The association’s website says 97 percent of the state’s 932 cities are owned by the organization.

Barber also said it’s difficult to do both an in-person meeting and a Zoom meeting, and not all cities have the capacity to do so.

Guilderland, once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, plans to revert to its old in-person meeting and meeting broadcast procedure.

Guilderland resident Robyn Gray called to ask if phone call comments would still be allowed.

Right now, Barber replied, state open meeting law requires the person commenting to be in the room. This is “the catch,” he said.

Barber also said that the association’s big cities often go one way while small towns go the other way; a town like Guilderland, with a population of around 35,000, sits in between and those towns can go either way, he said.

City Councilor Rosemary Centi said she supports the resolution to change the current salary requirement.

The state constitution requires that public entities pay workers, laborers and mechanics performing public works the wages in effect unless contracts are less than $ 1,500.

The association’s resolution states that “the current method of calculating the ‘going rate of pay’ for public works projects does not reflect actual local prevailing wages and forces local governments to pay heavily inflated wages, adding thus unnecessary costs to municipal projects. “

The resolution also notes that the exemption was set in 1971 and the consumer price index has quadrupled since then and calls on the state legislature and governor to amend the state labor law. to exempt construction service contracts under $ 50,000 and further change the calculation method. prevailing wages “to more accurately reflect the prevailing wages within a particular community”.

“It makes sense to me,” Centi said.

“There are some issues with that,” Barber replied, saying it could be unfair for towns like Rensselaerville.

“The cost is about 50% higher,” Barber said, adding that it could be good because he’s pro-union.

“It’s a balancing act,” he concluded.

Other resolutions proposed by the authorities include the preservation of national autonomy; support the financing of highways, bridges and transport; preserve local authority while supporting the expansion of cellular and broadband services; and the strengthening of partnerships between the State and local communities by re-establishing the sharing of State revenues.

Also: allow municipal deposits in credit unions; the creation of a funding program dedicated to municipal water and sewer infrastructures; empower all cities to set speed limits on local roads; and reform the inequalities in the property tax cap formula.

Other business

In other matters, counsel:

– Approval of the new collection of water bills due in 2020-21 on real estate bills for 2022. There were 1,190 overdue accounts for a total of $ 177,343.85 to be collected;

– Made two permanent appointments: Daniel Ciccarelli as worker in the water department and Stephen Lord as doctor in the emergency medical services;

– Extended the moratorium on programmable digital signs until March 18, 2022. “The sign law is the most contentious part of land use,” said Barber; and

– Planning of the 2022 municipal council reorganization meeting on January 4 at 7 p.m.

Andrew B. Reiter