NORWICH – The Republican Party’s stronghold on Chenango County has weakened this year as accusations of personal grudges have flown between members, and standing committees have been unable to settle two departments’ budgets for next year.
The unprecedented division and unsettled mood within the halls of the County Office Building on Court Street in the county seat officially began in January when longtime Chenango County Board Chairman Richard B. Decker, R-N. Norwich, was challenged for his job by fellow Republican Supervisors Linda E. Natoli, City of Norwich, and William C. Craine of Sherburne.
It continued in September when a small handful of Republicans joined the Democrats in an unsuccessful proposal to freeze government raises, and later intensified when the fourth most powerful Republican, Supervisor David C. Law of the Town of Norwich, voted with Democrats in an attempt to keep Chenango County Attorney Richard Breslin from weighing in on a credit card system that would boost sales at the county’s airport.
Even though the moves have all been unsuccessful, including two more that were suggested this week, what makes them most unusual is that they weren’t agreed upon before hand in Republican Party caucuses. It is rumored that both parties caucus outside of official government business - and away from the media - in order to present a united front at official committee and full board votes.
The Chenango County Board of Supervisors is made up of 13 Republicans, seven Democrats and one politically unaffiliated member. Only one supervisor’s post is on the ballot on Election Day Tuesday. Voters in Columbus will have the opportunity to chose between a member of the Independence Party or a Democrat to represent their town at the county level.
Two government consolidation moves were spearheaded over the past two weeks by the Republican Supervisor Jerry Kreiner of Plymouth and supported by fellow Safety & Rules Committee members Arrington Canor, R-McDonough, and Norwich’s Law. In both cases, Safety & Rules met in special sessions held to iron out discrepancies and expedite the budgeting process. The first, which took a total of three motions to pass, zeroed out the $12,400 Traffic Safety Department. The second involved preventing Emergency Management Services Director Matt Beckwith from switching to the Fire Department, which would, effectively, trigger a new $33,000 position within the Chenango County Public Safety Building’s dispatch center.