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Murray tables decision on law banning firearms from town-owned property

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 9 March 2016 at 12:00 am

Photos by Kristina Gabalski – Murray resident Kerri Neale, standing in truck bed, speaks to fellow residents outside the Murray Town Hall on Tuesday evening. The rally was held to protest a proposed local law that would ban firearms from town property and facilities.

MURRAY – The Town Board on Tuesday decided to table a local law that would ban firearms from town-owned property and facilities, following a packed public hearing and rally outside the Town Hall against the proposal.

“We are not going to enact it unless it is done right,” Murray Town Supervisor John Morriss said about Local Law No. 1 of 2016 – Enacting a Workplace Violence Prevention Policy.

Residents packed the town meeting room/courtroom to let leaders know they are not happy with the section of the policy than bans firearms from town property, buildings and vehicles, saying it violates their Constitutional rights.

“The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and this law is belligerent to the Constitution,” resident Kerri Neale told the board. Neale organized a rally outside the Murray town building prior to the meeting, to protest the law.

“We’re not here to point fingers,” he told residents who gathered outside. “We are here to tell them about what we think about our freedoms and our right to defend ourselves.”

SCOPE members attended the Murray meeting to oppose the proposed law from Murray.

Inside the Town Hall, most residents who spoke during the public hearing said they, too, were against the proposed law.

Mattie Zarpentine of Holley said that just like the NY SAFE Act, the proposed Murray law “only impacts the law-abiding those with an intent to harm. Why should they follow the law?”

David Thom, chair of the Orleans County Chapter of the Scope Committee On Political Education (SCOPE), attended the meeting and told town board members that creating a gun-free zone is a bad idea.

“They are the target of choice of perpetrators,” he said. Thom also said such a law would be difficult to enforce.

Louise Passarell, who works for the Town of Murray as water billing clerk, said she was in favor of the law.

“As a town employee, I don’t have a problem with the (firearm) ban,” Passarell said. “I don’t feel safe with people coming in with guns.”

The Murrary Town Board meeting was well attended and garnered media attention due to a public hearing on a controversial proposed local law to ban firearms from town property.

Following the public hearing – which lasted about 35 minutes – Supervisor Morriss thanked residents for attending and said that council members had listened to all comments.

“We need to take a closer look at this,” he said. “To see if we need to tweak it or throw it out completely.”

Town attorney Jeff Martin drafted the law in light of a recommendation from the town’s insurance carrier – New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal (NYMIR). He told residents before the public hearing that comments already received by various town board members had been, “taken to heart,” and noted the law can be changed.

“It may be more restrictive than it needs to be,” he said.

Following the public hearing, Martin recommended that the law not be adopted as drafted.

Murray town officials listen to residents during the public hearing Tuesday evening. The officials include, from left: Town Councilwoman Kathy Case, Town Clerk Cindy Oliver, Town Supervisor John Morriss, attorney Jeff Martin and Town Councilman Paul Hendel.

Town leaders say they need to find out the consequences of not following NYMIR’s recommendation to enact the workplace violence prevention policy before they decide which course to take.

Morriss and Martin told residents that they would be kept informed as the issue progresses. If the proposed local law is changed, another public hearing would have to be held before it was enacted.

“It’s good to see people here,” Kerri Neale told the board following the decision to table the vote. “I would like to see constituents come back and help the board make correct decisions.”

In other business, Supervisor Morriss announced that in response to residents’ concerns over the town’s budget and property taxes, the town plans to create a Citizen Budget Committee with members from the community.

“They would sit down with us as we do the budget so they can see what goes into it,” Morriss said. The new committee would be formed closer to budget season.

Resident Joe Sidonio, who expressed concerns over high property taxes at the Town Board meeting in February, brought new concerns before the board at the Tuesday meeting regarding what he believes is over-taxation in the town’s 15 water districts.

Sidonio provided board members with a water districts bond repayment chart covering property tax, principal, and interest payments in all 15 water districts from 2013-2016. Total overages for the four years comes in at nearly $290,000, Sidonio said.

Sidonio said he was not making an accusation of wrongdoing, but if his understanding of the figures is correct, he would like an explanation of the irregularities.

“I would like an explanation of where the money went,” Sidonio told the board. “I would request a refund to citizens if, in fact, they have been overtaxed.”

Morriss told Sidonio the town has an independent auditor come in every year and that the next audit is scheduled for April.

“While they are here, we will bring this to them,” Morriss told Sidonio. “I want to know what is going on.”

Because of the federal funding involved the creation of the water districts, attorney Jeff Martin told Sidonio that the USDA requires an independent audit every year.

“No shortcomings have been brought to the attention of the town,” Martin said. “We will certainly look into it.”