LAKE PLACID - The village Board of Trustees voted Monday night to table a proposed local law that would make more people eligible for village jobs.
The move came after a public hearing on the proposal, which would amend a local law adopted in 1982 that says only people who live in certain election districts, most of which are in the village, are currently eligible for a village appointment or village employment.
Under the proposed change, the residency requirement would be expanded to include anyone who lives in Essex County.
During the public hearing, Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department member Jarrod Colby asked if the change would impact emergency services, like village fire drivers or fire department volunteers.
Mayor Craig Randall said the change wouldn't apply to the department, which is a separate organization. As for the drivers, the mayor said their union has a requirement in their collective bargaining agreement with the village that says drivers have to live within the districts served by the fire department, which includes the village and the town of North Elba.
"I don't see it changing anything because its written into the collective bargaining agreement," Randall said.
Colby asked why the village couldn't just expand the boundaries of its residency requirement to the town of North Elba, rather than all of Essex County.
"With unemployment rates the way they are, are you telling me there's nobody qualified within this town that could take some of these jobs?" he asked.
Under state municipal law, village attorney Janet Bliss said the residency requirement can only apply to the village or the county.
"It doesn't give you the choice of going to the town," she said.
If there are two candidates for a job, one who lives in the village and one outside, and both are similarly qualified, "you obviously would want to take the candidate from your own electorate," Randall said.
Trustee Scott Monroe said other municipalities with residency requirements have issued waivers if they can't find qualified people in their village for an open job. Trustee Jason Leon also said he supported the idea of looking into using waivers "in order to open the pool of applicants, if necessary."
As its drafted, the proposed law would apply to people who are appointed by the mayor (like the village clerk, treasurer and department heads) and regular village employees. If the board wanted, Bliss said it could make a distinction and have the residency requirement only apply to appointees and not regular employees.
She said the village may want to keep the residency requirement for "safety sensitive positions, like your head fire driver, your police chief, maybe your superintendent of highways, because if something happens, you want them close so they can be here."
Monroe said making that distinction or creating separate residency requirements, one for appointees and one for employees, could be a solution.
Village officials admitted Monday that the 1982 law requiring all village employees to live in the village hasn't been followed strictly.
"We have many village employees who live (outside the village) in the town of North Elba," said Trustee Peter Holderied.
"It's a recognition that folks are either buying their homes outside or can't afford to move inside," Randall said. "There are many reasons that I hear, but the reality is we have a local law that says you must reside in districts 1, 3 or 4."
"I would agree that needs to be changed, but I don't think it needs to be changed in the way it's written now," Monroe said.
When asked by Leon about the legality of using waivers, Bliss said she'd have to do more research into it. If the law that's on the table now is changed substantially, another public hearing would have to be held, Bliss said.
"This matter may go on for a while," Randall said. "It does affect how we would handle and post upcoming positions. It presents a bit of a dilemma right now as we try to fill positions. It's time to clean it up.
"I think the sense for all of you is that if we had our druthers we'd like to be able to give preference to people who live in the village," the mayor added. "Assuming there's no candidates right there, there's people that live just outside the village that can't be considered as eligible unless they're willing to move into the village, and that apparently is not practical in our community anymore."
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.