Analysis: One mundane Monday in city, village
One night. Two meetings.
In a tale of neighboring municipalities, which seem to struggle with cohesiveness at times, both the Dunkirk Common Council and Fredonia Village Board met on Monday evening 3 miles apart. City council members had a 54-page agenda. The village, which held a workshop, had a one-page agenda that was not posted online until after the meeting.
It was no place to spend a summer’s evening as evidenced by those in attendance. Fredonia had three people in the board room other than the trustees and attorney.
Only one was from the public while two were village workers.
Dunkirk had about 12 people in the council chambers that were not elected or city officials with three speaking during the public portion. Most of that discussion centered on a number of Ohio license plates that can be found around the region. One theory was the vehicles belonged to migrant workers. Another possibility raised by another speaker was it is easier to have vehicles pass inspection in Ohio. No one who spoke, obviously, was a true expert.
In Fredonia, three items took an enormous amount of time. First was a proposed LED project for the 712 street lights in the village.
Representatives from Siemens addressed the board about cost-savings and less maintenance that comes with the lights.
Later, Trustee James Lynden stole the show regarding two major issues. The first, a proposed contract with the State University of New York at Fredonia for water. Due to last September’s water emergency, SUNY is looking for an opt-out clause.
Lynden called the request “illegal.”
Worried more information about the unsigned contract might be discussed, attorney Melanie Beardsley began to gain control of the dialogue, calling for the issue to be moved to committee or executive session.
What might have led to the longest portion of the evening was Lynden again revisiting the April retreat. In a letter in the Sunday OBSERVER, the trustee spilled the beans on the items considered outside of public session in emails between the elected officials and how the charter changes came about.
Beardsley let her feelings be known. “I take the attorney-client priviledge extremely seriously. … My client here is the board. … When I am speaking with the board, and I am asked a legal question and I am providing legal advice in response to that, that is — in my opinion — attorney-client privileged information.”
Lynden stood firm, noting he believes the spring gathering — closed to the public — was illegal. Beardsley, however, disagreed calling the charter changes a trasparent process even though none of that has yet to occur in a public setting.
Dunkirk attorney Richard Morrisroe, probably to his liking, was called on for advice much less. That being said, he never took control in the meeting. Councilman At-Large Paul VanDenVouver ran a tight ship in handling a less than 30-minute workshop before running the scheduled 5:30 meeting that was delayed due to an immediate executive session that lasted about 40 minutes.
Once that closed-door gathering ended, business was wrapped up quite quickly, ending before 7.
Fredonia, however, continues to trip over itself. Even though it was a workshop session, the meeting dragged on due to differences in opinon that also included three presentations. It was a long night as the public portion, which started at 6:30 p.m., ended almost right at 9.
Village Board members, however, were not finished. They then went into an executive session to talk SUNY water contract.
Through Tuesday afternoon, about 325 people had watched one of the two meetings through YouTube though it is unknown how many watch through the public access channel. Both meetings, according to that same streaming site, were a combined four hours and 30 minutes.
That is a huge time commitment — for residents who want to be involved and for those elected. Governing, it has been said, can be a very slow process. Monday night was another perfect example.