Members of the public will get their chance to chime in on the fate of the Washington County sex offender residency law next month, following action by the Washington County Board of Supervisors Friday.
The board set their Sept. 16, 10 a.m. meeting as the time for the hearing.
Members of the public can address the board during a comment period slated as the likely first piece of business on that future agenda allowing county residents.
Residency laws, those dictating where sex offenders can live in proximity to institutions dealing with children have been coming under attack for violating the rights of sex offenders, leading in many cases to lawsuits.
By seeking public input regarding the law, the board hopes to gauge public opinion regarding the law particularly when the cost of defending it or the county is taken into consideration.
The 2007 local law prohibits convicted sex offenders from living or working within 1,000 feet of a school, child care facility, park, playground, youth center, swimming area, library, or any facility operated by the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, or the Washington County Chapter of NYSARC.
Opponents of the law have argued that it makes it nearly impossible to find a place to live, especially in smaller communities.
During the Aug. 19 board of supervisors meeting Argyle Supervisor Bob Henke commented before the public hearing was approved, reminding supervisors he presciently pointed out three things regarding the law at the time of its passing.
Henke said he correctly pointed out at the time the law would be problematic constitutionally and likely have the impact of driving offenders into Washington County from other counties as well as into highly rural areas or homelessness, which in turn would cost Washington County additional social services funds placing the offenders with the help of the agency.
Henke said if it was up to him the county would keep the law, but given new budget realities he thought repeal might be the way to go.
“Were it not for the tax cap I might say to heck with it let’s defend the thing but right now we can’t afford to stand on principals,” Henke said.
The law has recently come under fire in several counties, Washington County Attorney Roger Wickes said recently. Wickes said in the 17 counties that enacted a similar law, eight of those have already been overturned. The law has been struck down every place it’s been challenged, he said.
Meetings of the Washington County Board of Supervisors take place in the supervisor’s chambers, second floor of the Washington County Municipal Center off Broadway in Fort Edward on the third Friday of each month at 10 a.m.
College budget OK’d
In other news, supervisors approved the Washington County portion of the SUNY Adirondack, formerly Adirondack Community College, budget with five supervisors voting in opposition.
The measure passed 2,607 to 1,024 with 501 absent. Granville Supervisor Matt Hicks voted for the measure as did county budget officer Hebron Supervisor Brian Campbell.
Supervisors Alan Brown from Jackson, Seth Pitts from Salem, William “Beaver” Watkins from Cambridge, Robert “Bob” Shaw from White Creek and Richard “Geezer” Gordon from Whitehall voted against the budget proposal citing the budget’s increase. Together the no votes reached 1,024 under the county’s weighted voting system.
The proposed SUNY Adirondack budget increased by 3 percent despite what college officials called deep cuts to the overall budget.
In voting against, Brown cited the looming 2 percent tax cap. In his opinion, Brown said the college should have come in at or below the cap level.
The absences of Fort Ann’s Gayle Hall, Hampton’s Don Sady and Hartford’s Dana Haff meant 501 votes were taken out of the mix, however if all three supervisors voted against the budget it would have passed anyway.
Supervisors heard that it was critical to keep the heat on Albany in regard to unfunded mandates when Representative Tony Jordan addressed the board Friday.
Jordan gave an informal update of the end of the recent session which saw the approval of a 2-percent tax cap.
“Stay on top of it, keep the pressure on,” Jordan said, reminding supervisors the results of a successful effort to achieve significant unfunded mandate relief could render the impact of the tap cap “meaningless.”
Finishing his remarks, Jordan reminded everyone of the premiere agricultural event in the county starting in just a few days.
“And in case you missed it … next week’s the fair,” Jordan said.