Sunday, January 15, 2017

DOT clarifies cost of Woodbury project 

Fourteen months since Blooming Grove Supervisor Robert Fromaget first proposed the idea of switching to a ward system for electing council members, the change could become law within the next few weeks.

A consultant from the Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz has drawn up a map, dividing the town into six, equal-by-population wards. The public got its first look at the map Jan. 10, and a public hearing is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24. On Friday, Fromaget said the law could be adopted the same night as the public hearing. He has often talked about the ward shift as a way to promote more responsive government.

"I'm elated. I think it's (election by wards) the right thing for this town," Fromaget said Friday. "People need to know who they're voting for." Fromaget said wards will help voters "stop thinking about party and think about what's right for the community."

The town's four council members are currently elected at-large. After the change, the town supervisor will continue to be elected at-large.

In the beginning, a ward system for Blooming Grove faced an uphill battle because Fromaget, a Democrat, leads a Town Board with a 3-2 Republican majority, and many Town Board members were strongly opposed. But a bipartisan group called the Blooming Grove Citizens Committee organized a petition drive to put it on the Nov. 8 ballot. They got 900 signatures, 400 more than needed.

Voters approved the change by a 2-1 margin. Voters also approved a measure to expand the number of council seats by two. After the election, opposition from the Town Board evaporated. Many town residents, speaking at a Jan. 10 session introducing the map, said they supported the change to wards because it would head off the push for housing from Hasidic residents from the Village of Kiryas Joel. The Hasidic village is just to the south of Blooming Grove's Village of South Blooming Grove.

Since the town has a total population of about 18,050, each of the six wards represented in the proposed map outlined at the Jan. 10 session would contain about 3,005 people.


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