By LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — KEESEVILLE — A group of Keeseville residents filed a petition this week to force a public vote on whether to dissolve the village.
The petition, submitted by resident Nancy Booth, contained 122 signatures, 13 more than the 109 minimum required under state law.
Booth, who said she's in favor of dissolution, said she organized the petition drive because she wanted to make sure the people got a chance to decide the issue, rather than leaving it up to the Village Board.
"A lot of people feel they would like to vote on this issue," she said. "I think everybody should have a voice."
By law, 10 percent of the village’s registered voters must sign a dissolution petition for it to be valid. Keeseville has about 955 registered voters out of 1,800 residents.
A village dissolution study is under way now, but the final report will not be submitted until a meeting at the end of October.
Keeseville Mayor Dale Holderman said the petition must be certified by Village Clerk Lynn Hathaway.
The clerk has until Oct. 4 to review and certify the petition, and the Village Board has 30 days from its certification to vote on whether to put dissolution up for a public referendum.
“Our next step is to verify the signatures of the voters that signed,” Holderman said. “Then it goes to the Board of Trustees to pass a resolution to hold a vote.”
He said he believes the Village Board will approve a voter referendum.
“With a valid petition, there’s no choice. It took a lot of pressure off the trustees, though.”
The mayor said the decision on whether to put it up for vote no longer rests with the board. If the board did vote against a dissolution referendum, the petitioners could file a lawsuit in State Supreme Court to ask the court to order a vote.
It is too late to put the referendum on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, so a special election would have to be held by Jan. 30.
“It (the petition) kind of sped up the process,” Holderman said. “The trustees wanted better numbers to come out so people would be better informed.”
Those figures on possible savings and costs of special districts are expected to be in the final study report from the Village Dissolution Study Committee and Rondout Consulting.
The plan so far projects an annual $459 property-tax savings for village taxpayers in the Town of Chesterfield in Essex County and $546 savings for those in the Town of Ausable in Clinton County, assuming state dissolution aid continues.
The mayor said they now have figures that show that for residents who own homes with an assessment of $70,000 or less, municipal fees post-dissolution could be higher than their current village taxes.
“Once that information is out, residents can make an informed decision,” Holderman said. “I have no problem dissolving the village as long as people can make a good decision.”
Holderman has said he is personally leaning against dissolution.
He said that if the public vote is to dissolve Keeseville, residents can petition for a second vote, to approve a dissolution plan. Booth said she would be in favor of doing that.
The plan would include creation of any special taxing districts for the village after dissolution, such as ones for water, sewer, streetlights and sidewalks.
Holderman said that, if dissolution were approved in a January vote, the village would go out of existence Dec. 31, 2014.
— Staff Writer Dan Heath contributed to this report.