Gloversville Mayor Dayton King plans this year to push for a referendum vote that, if passed, is designed to consolidate the city’s six county supervisor positions under the duties of the city’s councilman-at-large.
Gloversville is represented at the county level by six elected supervisors who live in the city and serve on committees, voting on various countywide issues as part of the Fulton County Board of Supervisors.
There are 20 supervisors countywide, all of whom represent a different amount of votes based on population and what town or city they were elected in. Johnstown has four supervisors who together represent 16 percent of the county’s votes, while a smaller municipality like Broadalbin has one supervisor representing about 10 percent of the county’s total votes.
As Fulton County’s largest city in population and geographic are, Gloversville’s six supervisors account for 157 — or 28 percent — of the 551 votes in the county when taken together.
King’s idea is to abolish the supervisor positions and transfer those committee duties and votes to the city councilman-at-large, increasing that position’s salary in the process. The mayor cited his desire to see the city better represented at the county level, noting past votes by supervisors that ran counter to what he saw as the city’s best interests. One example he gave was an initiative to start a regional land bank that was shot down by some of the supervisors from Gloversville.
King said having one person represent the city at the county level, who could work closely with Common Council members on the needs of the city, would be a more efficient way of communication and realizing the city’s needs at the county level.
“Why wouldn’t we want that control?” said King. “We want that leverage, we want to say that we’re about Gloversville.”
King said he pushed the same measure two years ago but did not have the support of the council at the time. He indicated recently that current council members are open to discussing the proposal for a possible city referendum vote in November.
But it’s unclear if a city-level referendum vote, if passed, would be recognized at the county level. County administrative officer Jon Stead declined to comment on the merits of King’s plan, but said the county has no charter and is governed by state municipal and county law, which does not address how a consolidation of a county board of supervisors would work.
“This is something the mayor came up with himself, as far as I know he hasn’t consulted the county on it, I don’t have any comment on it one way or the other,” said Stead. “I think this is something the mayor has thrown out there without providing any details.”
King acknowledged that some details of the plan have yet to be finalized, and Gloversville city attorney Tony Casale declined to comment but indicated that he was looking at King’s proposal. Fulton County Attorney Jason Brott also declined to weigh in on the proposal.
The Board of Supervisors model of county government is less common in New York than the county legislature model, but there are several counties in the area that operate under supervisors. It appears as if King’s initiative in Gloversville would be the first attempt by a city represented by supervisors at the county level to consolidate that representation under city government.
The City of Hudson, in Columbia County, which operates under a board of supervisors model, is represented by five supervisors. Glens Falls in Warren County has five supervisors, while Saratoga Springs in Saratoga County is represented by two supervisors.
Fulton County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mike Kinowski said he’s open to discussing the proposal with King, and called it “not a bad idea,” but said, “the likelihood of it passing in the short term, I doubt.”
The idea was not popular among the existing supervisors in Gloversville, who said the city is better represented by six people who can spread themselves out among the county’s six standing committees and various other special committees and advisory boards.
“If you have just one that one person they wouldn’t be able to sit on those different boards. With six you can at least have one person on each board,” said Ward 2 supervisor Frank Lauria Jr., who served on the Gloversville Common Council from 1980 to 2001.
King proposed making the city councilman-at-large/city supervisor position full-time with a salary of $30,000 to $40,000, paid by the city and county, and said that whoever fills such a position could sit on numerous committees and attend meetings.
Ward 5 supervisor Gregory Young pointed out that even if the supervisor position was full time, that person would only get one vote on each committee.
“I think we have a system that’s working now there’s great communication between the supervisors and members of the Common Council now,” said Young. “If it’s not broken I don’t see a need to fix it.”
King countered that the real power rests with the full board, where the position would control 28 percent of the countywide vote, not on the committee level.
Gloversville Ward 3 supervisor John Blackmon disagreed.
“All of the work at the county is done at the committee level,” he said. “The city would not be very well represented at the county level.”
Ward 1 supervisor Marie Born said Gloversville’s representation is strengthened by having six supervisors who collaborate and think through different issues that affect not just the city but the county as a whole.
“We confer with one another, we may not agree on everything initially and we may have different views about something, but we always confer with one another and come to terms,” she said. “It’s not one person, not one city, not one township. It’s everyone.”
Born added that with several countywide initiatives finally getting off the ground, from the Smart Waters initiative to the Tryon Tech Park, now is not the time to tinker with county government.
“We’re seeing progress now and I just think with the way things are it’s worked for so many years and now is not the time to go changing things,” she said.
King said that collaboration would happen on the city level among Common Council members and the councilman-at-large/city supervisor. He added that Gloversville can do better for itself when it comes to promoting the city’s priorities at the county level.
“I’m all about the growth of the county but it can’t be at the expense of Gloversville,” he said. “We’re the hub of economic activity and we could be working closer together.”