SCHENECTADY — The Schenectady County Legislature will convene Tuesday to fill a vacancy created by the death of Brian McGarry — a longtime lawmaker who was one of just a handful of Republicans seated on the legislative body.
McGarry represented the village of Delanson and towns of Duanesburg, Princetown and Rotterdam, where he lived, as a District 4 legislator since 2013. He died last month after a prolonged battle with cancer at the age of 65.
His death not only creates a vacancy on the legislature, but also gives Democrats an opportunity to bolster their majority at least until the end of next year, when McGarry’s remaining term expires and a new election is held.
Democrats currently hold 11 of the Legislature’s 15 seats.
Eric Hess, a District 4 representative, is the only Republican on the Legislature, while Josh Cuomo, also of District 4, is a Conservative who conferences with Republicans. Peter Frisoni, a District 3 representative, is a registered Conservative.
It’s unclear who will be appointed to fill the vacant seat.
Lawmakers must nominate and vote on someone to fill the remainder of the term during a special legislative caucus meeting that will be held Tuesday prior to the Legislature’s regularly scheduled meeting. Both meetings are set to take place at the Boys & Girls Club of Schenectady at 104 Education Drive.
If multiple individuals are nominated and there is no clear majority, the person with the least amount of votes will be eliminated from contention and voting will continue until just one candidate remains, according to the county charter.
Last month, Hess and Cuomo called on the Legislature to appoint McGarry’s widow, Patricia McGarry, to fill the vacant seat, arguing there was no one more qualified to carry on her husband’s legacy and that her appointment would have no impact on the Democratic majority.
Lawmakers are also set to finalize an option and purchase agreement on Tuesday to secure 754 State St. in the hopes of developing the property into a mid-size grocery store in the future.
Under the agreement, the county will use $10,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to secure the 2.13 acre property once home to a used car lot that connects Albany and State streets and borders the Hamilton Hill and Vale neighborhoods with proximity to the downtown area.
The agreement will allow the county to purchase the property for $950,000 at any time over a year and a half long period. The property would be paid for using ARPA funds.
During that time, a request for proposals seeking developers that could operate the grocery store will be issued. The county has also committed $3 million in ARPA funds to develop the site.
Officials hope the incentives will be enough to finally bring a grocery store to the city, which has long been desired by residents who have struggled to obtain affordable, healthy food. The Hamilton Hill and Vale neighborhoods are among the poorest in the city and access to reliable transportation can be hard to come by for some.
If approved, the agreement will add to ongoing efforts to address food insecurity throughout Schenectady.
Earlier this year, the County Legislature pledged $3 million to help the Electric City Food Co-op open a location in the downtown area after the organization formed a partnership with the Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany to move the effort forward. The City Council has also allocated $1 million to help with the effort.
City lawmakers also allocated $1 million in ARPA funds last month to combat food insecurity, including $950,000 that will be divided between the Schenectady Foundation, Schenectady Community Ministries and SUNY Schenectady, and $50,000 for the Schenectady Greenmarket.
The Schenectady County Legislature will convene at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Boys & Girls Club at 104 Education Drive. The meeting will also be livestreamed on the county’s YouTube page.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.