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Yorktown- How Your Town Works

YORKTOWN, N.Y.-- Perhaps you’ve watched the Yorktown town board meetings on  television, but don’t know necessarily know the best ways to navigate the system.

There are two helpful resources you will want to introduce yourself to when it comes to navigating the town, whether you want to get a license for your dog or view meeting minutes from last decade. They are the Yorktown town website, and Town Clerk Alice Roker.

Town board meetings take place every week but there are two different types—work sessions and general meetings. The important difference to note is that at a work session there is no room for public comment, or what’s known as courtesy of the floor. At Yorktown town board meetings that are not specified as work sessions there are two courtesies of the floor where the public can comment for three minutes each.

At the top of the agenda for the week is a disclaimer on the top which explains the rules for a work session. The one issue that a few residents have grumbled about at town board meetings are the three-minute time limits imposed on the public.

“It started in the early 2000’s,” recalled Roker. “It was to keep the meetings fair—the town board didn’t want to have a public hearing and a huge line of people who are waiting and waiting to be able to speak. This way, we can still have a huge line of people who want to give their opinion, but everyone gets a chance to speak.”

Roker said residents have come to accept the three-minute rule and are forced to organize their thoughts and comments.

A limit on the amount of time a resident can speak is entirely legal, and an opinion on the issue is published in the Town Law Manual published by the Association of Towns of the State of New York.

“To carry out its purposes, the town board may prepare and circulate an agenda limiting the time and scope of the discussion by persons attending such meetings.

Not only are town board meetings accessible online, but they are also live streamed on the website, www.yorktownny.org, so interested residents can watch the meetings take place as they occur which adds to the accessibility of the town.

Some Yorktown Town Board meetings may take place at different times- and that is based on the amount of time spent in executive session. When the town posts its agenda, it lists the discussions that will be had in executive session. The topics are limited to the following criteria:

-A matter which will imperil the public safety if it is disclosed;

-A matter which may disclose the identity of a law enforcement agent or informer;

-Information with respect to investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense which would jeopardize effective law enforcement if disclosed;

- Discussions relating to proposed, pending or current litigation;

- Matters relating to collective negotiations under the Taylor Law

- Medical, financial, credit or employment history of a particular person or corporation, or relating to appointment, promotion, demotion, discipline or removal;

- Preparation, grading or administration of examinations;

- Acquisition, lease or sale of real property or securities when publicity would substantially affect the value.

- Personnel matters or litigation. Executive sessions are most frequently used to discuss personnel matters or litigation

In order to get an item on the agenda, an individual must contact either Roker or Supervisor Susan Siegel in order to have the item either reconciled prior to the meeting, or find the appropriate schedule to have it placed. Any questions regarding the agenda can also be directed to Roker.

The agenda is made available Friday and a finalized agenda is always available prior to the meeting at Town Hall, on the website, or via the email subscription service the town offers where all town meeting agendas can be emailed directly to your email inbox.

Roker also keeps all of the minutes at the meetings, and is therefore an invaluable resource if you are in search of something that happened long ago.

“Someone was working on a project last week and said ‘I think they [the town board] said this and decided it in 1995’—and I said well let me look it up for you…I have all the records and they’re usually easy for me to access so if someone has a question I can pull up the document or the meeting for them. And I did—and I said you’re right with what they decided, and it was actually 1997.”

The Yorktown Town Board also rotates meetings to various sites around the town during the summer season. Board meetings have been held  at locations ranging from Sparkle Lake to the newly-built Legacy Ball Fields. These outside meetings usually take place on non-work session meetings as work session meetings tend to go longer, and if meetings are held outside they must be stopped when the natural light is almost gone.

Do you have a question as to why something is done a certain way in Yorktown? Let us know in the comments below so we can find the answer.

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