Press-Republican

February 18, 2013

Keeseville dissolution draws questions

By ANDREA VanVALKENBURG
Press-Republican

---- — KEESEVILLE — As the Village of Keeseville moves toward formal dissolution, it appears some residents are already considering moving against any plan put forth. 

Keeseville officials now have a little less than six months to present a plan for dissolution to the public, detailing how services and assets would be merged with the two towns in which the village sits, Chesterfield and AuSable.  

Last month — in a 268 to 176 vote — villagers decided the municipality should dissolve.

At its regular meeting Tuesday night, the Village Board formally accepted the public vote, which initiated the 180-day deadline set by law for a formal plan to be presented to the public.

PLAN REVIEW

About 20 village residents turned out to learn more about the vote’s impact, and it was evident by their concerns that the move toward dissolution remains highly controversial.

Early last year, the village used a state grant to work with a consulting firm and committee of villagers to look into the issue, a process that ended with the drafting of a dissolution plan.  

With dissolution now a distinct reality, Mayor Dale Holderman said officials must now review the recommended plan and present their final assessment to the public.  

The plan would then be subject to permissive referendum, meaning villagers could petition the Village Board to trigger another public vote and potentially stop the process.

The 180 days gives officials an opportunity to evaluate and amend the previous plan submitted, and some supporters now worry they may adversely revise the study to make it less popular.

Holderman spoke out against that assertion Tuesday, saying, “it’s our job to present the best plan possible.”

‘VILLAGERS’ BEST INTEREST’

If no petition materializes, dissolution would become automatic.

He said officials will continue to act in the best interest of villagers and will present a final plan that best serves them, knowing there may not be petitions circulated to try to stop the process.

Supporters at the meeting asked officials to put serious consideration into the existing plan, saying that study was the result of detailed research and unbiased review of services and assets.

ADVERSE TAX IMPACT?

Though there was support for dissolution at the meeting, more villagers spoke out against the move, worried about potential financial backlash of a merger.

Trustee Kathleen Klages questioned the tax impact for those with properties assessed lower than $70,000.

The existing plan indicates residents with higher assessments may have minimal savings with the move, but Klages pointed out that 65 percent of homes are assessed below $70,000.

“So basically anyone under $70,000 will pay more in taxes,” she said.

Klages and some audience members said they fear many residents will experience an adverse tax impact, particularly young families and the elderly, especially if special districts for streetlights and water and sewer are formed.

45 DAYS FOR PETITION

Richard Clodgo questioned Department of State representative Sean Maguire about the process for permissive referendum, expressing obvious interest in another vote on the issue.

Maguire said residents, if interested, would have 45 days after the plan is approved to circulate a petition to force another vote.

That petition would require signatures from 25 percent of registered village voters.

If dissolution stands, the village would cease to exist on Dec. 31, 2014.

‘TWISTY, TURNY’

Fielding questions from the audience, Maguire said dissolution can be “a twisty, turny process” but that his office will continue “to help you no matter what happens.

“We continue to remain a resource through this.”

Holderman said officials will hold at least one public hearing about the plan before it is formally presented.

A copy of the existing document is available for download at keeseville.ning.com.