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Yates nixes texting legislation

PENN YAN—A proposed local law prohibiting the use of wireless handsets to compose, read or send text messages while operating a motor vehicle in Yates County died when a tie vote on the matter closed action on the issue for the time being.
Sheriff Ron Spike presented legislators with a proposed local law that would prohibit the use of the wireless devices while operating a motor vehicle. A resolution presented at the May 11 meeting of the Yates County legislature noted text messaging while driving is a growing traffic safety problem on local roads. The new local law was proposed as a necessity due to the fact the state legislature has not passed similar legislature to date.
A resolution was offered at the meeting to set a date for a public hearing on a proposed law to prohibit text messaging when driving. During the discussion period, legislator Tim Dennis said he is concerned about the dangers of driving and texting and that texting is not the only distraction, listing viewing Global Positioning Systems (GPS), using compact discs as some other distractions. He said, “We already have regulations in place,” adding, “If this law is necessary, it is time for the state to enact it.”
Legislator Dan Banach said, “I have a real problem with ‘feel good’ legislation.” Banach noted the proposed law is “virtually unenforceable because use of the devices is highly undetectable.” Legislator Deb Flood added, “You cannot legislate common sense.” Legislator Doug Paddock added, “I’m not a big fan of passing legislation for the sake of passing it. I agree with Tim that it is the states’ responsibility. We sent a resolution to the state a year ago.”
After some additional discussion, a vote was taken to pass the resolution to enact a local law to prohibit use of the devices when driving. That vote resulted in a tie, so the motion failed, as did a second vote. The matter can be brought up again, but not by anyone who voted no.
In other business:
• Finance committee chairman Taylor Fitch reported on the audit, stating, “It was very complimentary to treasurer Bonnie Percy as well as employees and department heads.” He said there is a strong General Fund balance. Sales tax revenue was up through September, but fell in the fourth quarter. Despite that, it surpassed expectations.
• Authorized payment for an engineering study to determine the infrastructure needs related to the redevelopment of the Penn Yan Marine property on the Keuka Lake Outlet in Penn Yan. Representatives of the village and county have recommended Hunt Associates be hired at a cost of $26,900 to conduct the study. Finance committee chairman Taylor Fitch said, “The waterfront committee has been working on the infrastructure problem for some time. Because it is for economic development, Yates County should pay for the whole study.” Fitch emphasized the county should recoup the money when the property is sold. He said, “We did not want to set precedent for the future. This is specific for this project.”
• Legislators passed an economic recovery projects municipal/sponsor resolution for resurfacing Italy Hill Road to Darby’s Corners in the town of Jerusalem. If approved, 100 percent of the cost would be Federal funds and 0 percent non federal funds.
• Voted to contract with Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings (LABCORP) for genetic parentage testing for the Child Support Unit of the Department of Social Services.
• Appropriated additional Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funding in the amount $140,706.
• Approved requesting Home Rule Legislation to extend imposition of additional sales tax. The amount of the recurrent request is one percent. County administrator Sarah Purdy said this is a renewal. She said New York State Association of Counties was disappointed the state legislature did not act to make this type of legislation necessary. Purdy said making the change of the 2003 increase in the county sales tax rate by one percent permanent would be easier.
• Proclaimed May as “One Stop Month” for Yates County and to acknowledge the achievements and the valuable services the Finger Lakes Works One Stop Centers provide to the citizens of this community.
• Appointed members to the Yates County Fire Advisory Board for terms ending Dec. 31. Legislator Donna Alexander, who proposed the resolution said, “I also want to thank these people for their time and service.”
• Accepted a grant of $14,500 through the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program through the U.S. Homeland Security agency.
The next meeting of the Yates County Legislature will be at 1 p.m. June 8 in legislative chambers in the Yates County office building on Liberty Street in Penn Yan.

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