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Environmental council may be replaced

SCHUYLER COUNTY--The Schuyler County Legislature met Monday, March 14 and set a public hearing on the possible replacement of the Environmental Management Council (EMC). The legislature voted six to two to set a hearing on a local law which would rescind the local law establishing the EMC to restructure its duties and powers into a subcommittee of the Schuyler County Planning Commission. The hearing will be held April 11, at 6:30 p.m. in the legislative chambers.
According to the county website, The Schuyler County EMC was established in 1974 to foster unified action on environmental problems among local governments and among public and private agencies and organizations. Members of the council are appointed representatives from Schuyler County's 12 municipalities as well as five members at large. It was brought into question following plans for an Earth Day event whether the EMC is acting as an advocacy group rather than an advisory group.
Four members of the public spoke against this measure prior to the vote. Gita Devi said rescinding the law would be an insult to those who have been on the EMC throughout the decades. She said the council was not informed of this prior to the Wednesday, March 9, legislative review committee.
Jim Murphy said he previously served on the EMC for 15 years, adding he still believes it has a legitimate role.
"I really think an entity that has an unabashed commitment to the county serves us well," Murphy said.
Lori Peck said the proposal to do away with the EMC was not well thought out and that the legislature did not follow their own proper committee procedure. EMC Chair Kate Bartholomew said the resolution is a misplaced notion, adding the new subcommittee would not have representation from all municipalities.
Legislator Mark Rondinaro said the EMC as it currently operates is much broader an organization than what Article 47 advises, noting it does not establish an advocacy organization. Schuyler County Attorney Steve Getman said the EMC is limited to taking advice from outside sources on issues and then bringing their findings back to the legislature. Legislator Michael Lausell, who voted against the measure, echoed Peck's complaints about the committee procedure, adding several members of the legislature did not even read the statute that is being rescinded. Lausell referenced the 1974 local law, claiming he believes the group's Earth Day event they had planned falls under Section Five, Paragraph Two, which allows the group to conduct programs of public information designed to increase understanding of nature and environmental problems.
Legislator Barbara Halpin disagreed, saying the legislature has been talking about this issue for four months, adding the legislature can make changes if the new subcommittee does not work. Lausell motioned to table the resolution for a month until all legislators have read the statute, but his motion was voted down five to three. The vote was later approved six to two.

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