ELMIRA — The Chemung County Legislature voted 11-3 with one excused to oppose 5 cent fees on paper bags during Monday night’s legislative meeting.

The money, if passed, would have designated 2 cents of every 5 cents collected to go towards the purchase of reusable bags for low income residents, while the remaining 3 cents were earmarked for the Environmental Protection Fund.

Before the vote, Legislator Christina Sonsire accused Board Chairman David Manchester and other legislators of pushing motions she said were unnecessary and politically motivated.

“This is just political theater. We all get upset with mandates but that is what is refreshing about this fee, it was never a mandate. It’s not a tax, it’s a fee, and this resolution is unnecessary to say we oppose something we don’t have to,” Sonsire said.

Sonsire added that she understands the argument that the fee collection process could add extra work for already overworked county employees.

“But to say we are protecting cost of living in a resolution that has no purpose is politics,” Sonsire said.

The legislature did vote to approve bonding out $1.5 million for a new luggage conveyor belt at the Corning Elmira Regional Airport. Already approved as part of the 2020 budget capital projects, the legislature still needed to hold a vote on the bonding process. Not part of any greater remodel being done at the airport, county officials say that the old conveyor belt merely needed to be replaced.

During the public session, Supervisor George Richter of the Town of Chemung appeared before the legislature to inform them of issues that he has with proposals contained within Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2020 budget.

Richter, who has been speaking out publicly over the last few weeks against Cuomo’s proposed budget for aspects he says circumvent local municipality oversight of local land development, also spoke on the hot-button issue of term limits for county legislators. Richter argued that elections represent term limits, and that he likes things the way they are in the county.

After the meeting, Sonsire took Manchester to task on her Chemung County Matters Facebook page for effectively blocking equipment already obtained by the county for live-streaming legislative meetings from being used.

“We have experienced sharp push back against live-streaming in the Legislature, especially from Chairperson Dave Manchester. It took over a year to seat people on a “Live-stream Committee,” only to learn last month that we need to wait until mid-April for it to be formally created. I have been named the committee chair, and intend to hold just one meeting before preparing a resolution to the Legislature as there is very little we need to discuss,” Sonsire wrote.

Sonsire, who has been live-streaming meetings herself in the meantime, said that recent decisions by the legislature show that they are not serious about tackling the issues facing Chemung County.

“The current Legislature could do a lot of good things if we could find a way to work together on what matters,” Sonsire wrote.

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