Press-Republican

December 9, 2012

Village dissolution raised again in Champlain

by DAN HEATH
Press-Republican

---- — CHAMPLAIN — A move is on to require a vote on dissolving the Village of Champlain. 

Village resident Kevin Triller plans to submit petitions to the Village Board at its 6:30 p.m. meeting Monday in support of a public referendum on the issue. 

"The petition will drive the train. The clock starts ticking the minute I hand them the petition," he said.

Triller, whose lawn sports a large bright-yellow sign promoting an end to the village, had requested a study of dissolution in the past but the Village Board didn't take action. That led him to pursue the public-referendum route, he said. 

He has collected about 75 signatures from people eligible to vote in village elections, he said, who support of putting dissolution to a vote. That figure exceeds the 10 percent requirement, he said. 

Triller said the list he received from the Clinton County Board of Elections showed 617 registered voters, but he believes a number of them have moved away or died, which leaves the actual number closer to between 550 and 560.

'FALLING DOWN'

Triller, who has lived in the village since 1986, said his desire for dissolution was prompted by what he sees as a lack of prudent management.

"I see the village disintegrating. It is literally falling down around us," he said.

Examples include closure some time ago of the Village Police Department and Village Court. He also questions why the village chose to spend money on a dump truck rather than use it to reduce debt in its Water and Wastewater Departments.

'IN GOOD SHAPE'

Village Mayor Gregory Martin said the village has refinanced the rate on its debt repayment in the Water Department, which saved about $80,000. Even if the village were dissolved, it would still have to pay off that debt, as it can't be passed on to the town, said.

The village sits within the Town of Champlain, and dissolution would mean government and services would be taken over by the town. That process could take 18 months or more as the village would first have to meet its debt obligations, Martin said.

He said the village has been able to keep its water and sewer rates steady for the last five years. He questioned whether the town would be able to continue that.

The village also has done well with road maintenance and has instituted a village festival and family movie nights, Martin said.

A fundraising effort has been launched to buy equipment to establish a playground downtown, as well.

Martin said the village is in good shape, as indicated in a recent "at risk" audit by the State Comptroller's Office. The village didn't require a follow-up audit, which was not the case in some neighboring municipalities, Martin said.

90 WINDOW BEFORE VOTE

Once the petition is submitted, the village clerk has 10 days to ensure the signatures are accurate. The mayor said it would take 20 percent of registered voters to force a referendum if the total signed up is less than 500.

If enough signatures are valid, the village must schedule a vote on dissolution in between 60 and 90 days. That timetable would allow the vote to take place on the same day as village elections in March 2013, Martin said.

If the vote is in favor of dissolution, the village would have to develop a plan for that. The mayor said the state usually foots the bill for the study and plan. 

The study would include a look at all village services, departments, assets and liabilities, and policies. Once a plan is in place, the village would need to hold a series of public hearings.

The final plan would then be up for another referendum. Only villagers would vote, not town residents.

If the measure were to fail, dissolution can't be brought up again for at least four years.

 

'LOSS OF IDENTITY'

In November, voters in the Village of Malone shot down a proposition that would have dissolved that municipality into the Town of Malone. Grant funding had paid for a study on the issue.

Villagers in Keeseville vote Jan. 22, 2013, on whether to keep or dissolve government there. A committee studied the issue for months before a petition mandating the vote was presented to the Village Board.

Martin says dissolution would lead to a loss of identity as village residents.

"I think a lot of people like to be able to say they live in the Village of Champlain," he said.

Email Dan Heath: dheath@pressrepublican.com