Friday, February 28, 2014

Charter committee gets input on redistricting, road patrol costs

Posted By on Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 12:43 PM

The last time the county's Charter Review Committee held a public input meeting, the public didn't show up. Last night, however, a few speakers addressed the committee and offered substantial comments.

The committee is reviewing the county charter, a collection of laws that say how county government is organized and how it operates. Ultimately, any changes to the charter require the County Legislature's approval.

During last night's public input session at Monroe Community Hospital, Elaine Schmidt, a Rochester League of Women Voters board member, recommended amending the redistricting process laid out in the charter. She said the charter should provide for a nonpartisan redistricting commission, instead of having legislators draw the lines. 

Webster Supervisor Ronald Nesbitt, a Republican, spoke at some length about how provisions of the charter require town taxpayers to pay for the Monroe County Sheriff's Office road patrol, even though the town has its own police force. The sheriff's office doesn't regularly patrol the town, he said, so Webster residents are subsidizing services received by towns such as Pittsford or Riga, which don't have police departments. From Nesbitt's prepared remarks: 

"For the past 19 years I have asked every county legislator that has been elected to represent the Webster Community to please do something to help the Webster residents in this situation. The only answer I have gotten to date is that it's in the county charter and there isn't anything we can do about it. Well, now that you are looking at changing the county charter, it is time to make this change.

"If it is possible for the county legislators to pass a budget which figures out how much snow plowing to charge back to Webster residents for plowing county roads in Webster, I am sure that the county can figure out how to give the Webster residents a credit on their county tax bills for the Sheriff's road patrol we don't use.

"If the county can figure out how to charge on the county tax the increased tax for MCC students going to college, the county can figure out how to give the Webster residents a credit on their county tax bill for the Sheriff's road patrol we don't use."

Nesbitt also said that Webster police often respond to calls in Penfield because a sheriff's deputy is not available. That happened 72 times last year, he said. The Webster Police Department has no legal obligation to respond to those calls, he said, but does so because the officers care about their fellow county residents. 

If the county doesn't amend the charter so that Webster isn't paying for a service it doesn't use, Nesbitt said, then the town will start billing the sheriff's office for those calls.

County attorney Merideth Smith said she'll review the comments the committee received last night and then report back to the members.

The committee will hold another public input session at 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday, March 5, at Pittsford Town Hall, 11 South Main Street.

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