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Shelter Island pols to mull shorter terms

The Shelter Island Town Board has unanimously voted to hold a public hearing next month on a proposal to make every town board member run for office every two years, an idea some of them said was "terrible."

Currently, board members on Shelter Island -- as in most Long Island towns -- hold four-year terms, with two running every two years. The supervisor, also on the board, already runs every two years; the board majority can change in every election.

But Richard Kelly, a local resident, thought that wasn't enough, and has circulated a petition asking the terms be changed to two years.

It wasn't a legal petition -- the names of signers weren't checked to see whether they were registered voters, and it didn't meet other legal requirements -- but 161 people did sign it, prompting the town board on Friday to schedule the public hearing for Sept. 9, the first step toward getting the proposal on the ballot in November.

"This would be an absolute disaster," said Councilman Peter S. Reich, adding both major political parties "have enough trouble finding viable candidates now."

Shelter Island's year-round population is about 2,300. While some residents volunteer for agencies such as the zoning board of appeals, it is sometimes hard to find people to run for the part-time town board positions.

But the plan has strong support from Supervisor James Dougherty, who already runs for office every two years.

"I believe in accountability," he said, adding that 2010 proposals to extend terms for town supervisor and highway superintendent from two to four years were defeated by more than a 3-1 ratio.

Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar said if the board decides to put the proposal to voters, there is enough time to get it on the November ballot.

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