CHAMPLAIN — When Dr. John Southwick was growing up, Village of Champlain’s downtown had three grocery stores, two clothing stores, two hardware stores, two restaurants, a furniture store and a post office.
“I’ve witnessed, for what it’s worth, the whole destruction of the Village of Champlain,” said Southwick, who is 80 and has lived in the municipality for 65 years.
Even so, he wants more information before he decides whether it makes sense to dissolve village government.
So, he will vote “yes” at the referendum on the issue on March 19.
If the majority does so, the Village Board will be obligated to conduct a study that would detail how dissolution would occur, with the Town of Champlain assuming governance.
“Both the town and the village have to sit down during the dissolution study and talk about these things and what will work for both entities,” Mayor Greg Martin said.
After the plan driven by that study is complete, villagers can petition for another public vote on the issue. If that doesn’t happen, village government would disappear.
Residents are torn about the fate of their village.
“I’m kind of teetering,” said Patricia Gladd, 61.
The village is visibly deteriorating, she said.
“It’s really depressing.”
The village is typical of many — most of its retail moved from downtown or established itself on busier Route 11, many stores are located in the strip mall anchored by Price Chopper.
Downtown fell victim, too, to flooding caused by ice jams on the Great Chazy River; some years ago, a federal buyout eliminated numerous homes and buildings that had one time made up a bustling area.
Village-run services that have been eliminated over the years include the police department and court.
“Little by little, the ability to pay for necessities is diminishing. And what’s remaining is the water and sewer plant,” said Kevin Triller, who heads the dissolution effort.