Press-Republican

March 6, 2013

Keeseville dissolution called complicated

BY LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

---- — KEESEVILLE — Two members of the Keeseville Village Joint Dissolution Study Committee feel nothing should deter the municipality from dissolving as planned on Dec. 31, 2014.

Residents voted in January to dissolve the village, but a dissolution plan that must be approved by the Village Board would also be subject to a referendum, if residents petition for one.

Study Committee members Linda Liberty-Guimond and Leon “Butch” Clodgo recently shared their feelings about the dissolution process with the Press-Republican.

If any referendum on the plan were to fail, dissolution would not take place, and Liberty-Guimond said she’s hoping that reprieve does not happen.

‘EVERYONE SAVES’

“Every homeowner, no matter what their assessment, is going to save money,” she said in an interview.

She said the dissolution plan drafted by the Study Committee and a private consultant does show that for those under a certain level of assessment, special-district fees could be higher than village taxes were.

But that’s a small segment of Keeseville’s homeowners, she insists.

In Chesterfield, 35 percent of village homeowners have assessments of $50,000 or less, while in AuSable, it’s 31 percent in that category, according to each county’s real-property offices.

There are 425 residential parcels on the AuSable side and 409 on the Chesterfield side.

ASSESSMENT LEVEL

“There might need to be a few things that need to be clarified,” Liberty-Guimond said. “They originally came up with $70,000” as the assessment level below which there is no savings from dissolution.

“But on the final form, they consolidated these items. It was $60,000 in the final report.”

That would mean that people with an assessment of $60,000 or less could pay more in new fees and taxes than previously in village taxes — but only if special districts for water, sewer, sidewalks, village debt, street-lighting and other services were formedww.

Some special districts will probably have to be formed, Chesterfield Town Supervisor Gerald Morrow said, but exactly which ones hasn’t been determined yet.

DISTRICTS AREN’T DEFINITE

The dissolution plan the Study Committee filed doesn’t create any special districts, Clodgo said; it only suggests they could be formed.

“Our goal is to see that correct information gets out there. This is not what came out of our plan.”

Village Mayor Dale Holderman, who was also on the Study Committee, said the confusion may be that those with $70,000 assessments would pay about the same after dissolution as they’d paid the village in taxes.

It’s only below about $60,000 that they’d pay more in special district fees, he said.

“I think $70,000 was the break-even point. Below $70,000, it (any savings) starts decreasing.”

NO TRASH PICKUP

The Village of Keeseville sits partly in the Town of Chesterfield in Essex County and the Town of AuSable in Clinton County, and after dissolution, those towns would assume governance. Officials in both have said they would not continue garbage and recyclables pickup for residents of the former village.

“It’s so minute who uses it,” the mayor said. “They have other options, like using a local hauler. For the people who don’t use it, it’s no change.”

It’s been estimated that about 70 people take advantage of the village’s weekly garbage and recyclables collection.

UTILITIES

It’s true that water and sewer districts would likely have to be created, Clodgo said, but village residents pay those charges now.

“Three options were discussed by the committee. One is that the town that has the plant takes the service.”

Under that, AuSable would get the sewer plant, and Chesterfield, the water facility. The other options would be to form a joint water-sewer district to cover the village or to set up an independent agency to run the systems and charge user fees.

Many services have already been absorbed by the towns, Clodgo said, including animal control, court, property assessing and building-codes enforcement.

NEXT STEPS

The referendum vote was 268 to 176 to end Keeseville’s existence as a village.

The Village Board accepted the dissolution-vote results on Feb. 12 so has 180 days from that date to offer a plan for dissolution, with a minimum of one public hearing.

The village then has 60 days after the hearing to pass a final plan, which can be petitioned to referendum within 45 days of that.

Holderman said it’s their job to prepare the best possible plan for dissolving the village. He said they have to go over the committee’s plan to see if any changes or additions are needed.

“I have a suspicion there aren’t going to be any changes,” he said. “Some say it (the committee’s plan) was not done right. We’re going to see if there’s anything that was missed.”

The Village Board should just OK the committee’s plan, Liberty-Guimond said, noting that some people fear the board will weaken or alter it so it can be voted down.

“She’s jumping the gun,” Holderman said. “We don’t know if there’s a petition coming in (to vote on the plan), because we haven’t approved the plan yet.

“Why would we make a plan that was bad for the residents of the village? Then we’d have to live under the plan we put forth” if no one petitioned a vote that rejected it.

‘BEST CHOICE’

Holderman said any vote on the plan would be up to the public, not the Village Board.

“It’s our responsibility to give the people the best choice. And that’s what we’re going to do.”

If the plan were voted down, they’d have two choices, he said: to either revise it and re-adopt it, or do nothing.

“If they do nothing, then dissolution doesn’t happen. But then another petition could come in for a vote.”

The village has about $16 million in assets that has to be divested in a dissolution, Holderman said, so they want to be sure it’s done correctly.

“We’re working hard to put the best plan forward to the community. We’re taking it very seriously.”

Email Lohr McKinstry: lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com