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New coroner law in the works, County Chairman says that the County Administrator needs help

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Knapp says that a third deputy administrator is the best solution

By Andrew Harris

The Committee of the Whole, which includes every Allegany County legislator met Wednesday in public session and many important issues were on the table.

County Administrator Carissa Knapp and County Attorney Allison Carrow gave the board a full overview of a slew of policy changes that the county needs to address. After a long discussion on mileage reimbursement policy, Carrow discussed changes to the FOIL(Freedom of Information Law,) with a goal to approve the updated policy by the end of the year. A new ethics policy is also being circulated to working groups and Carrow would like that policy update and approved by the end of the year. A new whistleblower policy and a social media policy also in process, both being quite complex and will likely be the work of 2024.

Chairman Harris asked Carrow for an update on the county effort to obtain a “CON Certificate”, the Certificate of Need, is required to operate an EMS service in New York State. The application process is lengthy but according to Carrow, the county can’t apply for a CON until the results of the ongoing EMS study are available.

Local Coroner Law update

County Administrator Carissa Knapp provided the board with an update of her offices work on the county coroner local law to provide guidance to the county coroners. The law is being addressed in the wake of an age discrimination complaint by one of the counties four elected coroners, Maynard “Bud” Baker. That complaint centered around the arbitrary coroner call list and ethical issues that have existed for many years in Allegany County. The background of that complaint can be read in our previous reporting. The future of the county coroner system appears to be headed from largely arbitrary, to a “straight rotation” system. Additionly, all calls for a coroner will be routed through the Allegany County Emergency dispatch center to provide transparency for the new system.

A final change to the law would focus on upholding the methods of the coroner called to a death. By law, the coroner, may not use the coroner call as a sales call. Coroners are directed to provide families with all available options and facilitate the storage and transfer of the deceased until cremation or burial. This new local law would reinforce that important requirement of an elected coroner. Every elected coroner in Allegany County is also in the funeral home business.

To amend the county law, legislators asked the County Administrator to present a draft law to the board for review. Once that review is approved, legislators would set a date for a public hearing on the law change. After that legally required public hearing, county legislators would be able to hold a vote on the new legislation.

With that agenda item completed, County Chairman W. Brooke Harris proposed that the board create a new position within the County Administrators office. The reason for the request by Harris:

“From my vantage point, Carissa needs some more help in her office”

Harris cited the many specific studies and projects that the County Administrator is responsible for overseeing, in addition to the offices “normal” responsibilities, like economic development.

“EMS, Hazard Mitigation Plan, Space needs, BEconomic Development Strategic Plan, Crossroads/Gateway, County wide Sewer study, GIS, Countywide Trail strategic, Salary study….. There is just too much that we are burdening you with,” Harris stated.

The County Administrator was asked for ideas on getting help for the workload, and even backlog. Knapp acknowledged that this was a hot topic within the office and provided more detail on the work facing the office. She told the board that creating a third deputy position and making the second deputy job permanent seems to be the best solution.

That request recieved immediate support from Legislator Healy and was questioned by Legislator Cyr, who wondered if hiring another county attorney would be more impactful than a third deputy administrator.

County Administrator Carissa Knapp provided Cyr with an answer that agreed with him but offered her opinion on the human resource challenge.

Knapp explained that the national labor shortage is a major factor in the backlog facing both the county attorney and her office. She explained to the board that the county has been trying to hire additional legal staff for sometime, and without success. Knapp contended that hiring a mid-level administrative professional is more realistic and, if successful, that 3rd Deputy Administrator would impact many county departments, including the county attorney.

Legislator Ricci made a point to voice his concern that the county was proposing to expand the payroll with a new administrative position before providing raises to Department of Public Works employees.

“I’m talking about giving them(DPW) raises, it’s not that hard to do,” said the legislator from District 3.

Chairman Harris asked the County Administrator to draft a job description and bring it back to the board for review, citing that he felt the move “sounds like it has support.”

The legislature then moved into executive session to discuss the proposed aqcuisition of real property and the public meeting ended.

All Allegany County public meetings are livestreamed and archived on the county Facebook page.

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