Press-Republican

January 19, 2013

Hotly debated Keeseville dissolution goes to vote Tuesday

Government redundancy,cost savings key in hotly debated topic

By LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

---- — KEESEVILLE — Whether the Village of Keeseville dissolves or not, residents agree the issue is causing an uproar throughout the community.

A public referendum is set for noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Village Hall on Liberty Street.

It’s been a topic of discussion — and disagreement — all over Keeseville, village resident James King said.

“Everybody has good reasons for or against. The thing I’m disturbed about is if you’re not for dissolution, in some camps they don’t talk to you anymore.”

King said he thought things in Keeseville were improving after the new mayor, Dale Holderman, took over last year.

“The village isn’t perfect, but they’re heading in the right direction. They’re looking at ways to combine services and save the taxpayers money.”

‘DIRECT ACCESS’

In an interview at the Village Hall, Holderman acknowledged he’s been criticized for taking a stand against dissolution, but he said he’s also entitled to his opinion.

“I’m mayor, but I’m also a citizen. Village government works very, very well, in my opinion.”

He said with village government, people have direct access to their representatives.

“I see people every single day. They stop me on the street. They come to the office. This direct access is democracy in its purest form.”

One supporter of dissolving the village, resident Lola Lopez, said she wouldn’t miss Keeseville if it goes away.

“I think the Village of Keeseville is another layer of government that’s unnecessary. It doesn’t do anything,” she said. “They have meetings. They collect garbage and recyclables. 

“That’s about it.”

Lopez said she’ll take her own trash to the closest transfer station if Keeseville dissolves.

“I can’t see keeping a village for garbage services. We (the Lopez family) paid $500 in village taxes for 2011, and it was $630 in 2012. We don’t really see a benefit. I’m against more taxes. 

“We don’t get anything for our money.”

WATER AND SEWER

The village sits partly in the Town of Chesterfield in Essex County and Town of AuSable in Clinton County — those entities would take over Keeseville’s water and sewer systems if dissolution goes through.

Resident Ronald Stanford said he’s glad the new mayor made village water-plant improvements a priority.

“The water is up to state specifications now. It’s a small government in Keeseville, which I think is an ideal situation.”

A dissolution plan prepared by the village and a private consultant would create water and sewer districts for the former village area, plus special sidewalk, streetlight and village debt districts, all with their own tax rates.

“You’re going to pay one way or the other,” Holderman said. “Water and sewer rates will have to increase (with dissolution).”

TAX COMPARISONS

Lopez said she believes it would still cost residents of the village less in taxes if it dissolved.

“It will save money. Everybody’s always talking about how there’s too much government; government doesn’t do anything for us. We need to follow through and see what happens.”

For the AuSable part of the village, taxpayers pay $2,375 a year now in taxes and fees on a $100,000 property. After dissolution, they’d pay $2,032 without state dissolution aid, and $1,931 with it. 

On the Chesterfield side of the village, residents pay $2,173 now and would pay $1,791 without the aid, and $1,714 with it.

The state has to approve the aid yearly that it pitches in to governments following dissolution, so it isn’t guaranteed.

‘FIGURES SKEWED’

For homes assessed at less than $70,000, when special district taxes and fees replace village property taxes, those people could have to pay more than under the village rule, the report states. 

For example, there would be a $166 or so increase for properties with an assessment around $30,000.

Village Trustee Robin Bezio said 66 percent of the houses in Keeseville are assessed at less than $100,000.

“The savings figures are based on a $100,000 home. They’re skewed — that’s not what most people have.”

POLICE QUESTION

Village Trustee John Casey said he’s worried Keeseville would lose its State Police satellite station in the Village Hall if dissolution takes place.

“Where do the State Police go? Your reaction time from Plattsburgh (station) would be a half hour. I’d hate to see what would happen.”

The village has been well served by its zoning and planning laws, Trustee Kathleen Klages said, and neither AuSable nor Chesterfield have pledged to continue those regulations if Keeseville goes away.

“AuSable has no zoning, although Chesterfield does. No one has signed anything to agree to uphold or continue village laws.”

‘NO WAY TO KNOW’

The towns are not bound by the dissolution plan anyway, Trustee Mary King said.

“Both entities have said they don’t know if there will be price (tax) increases. I don’t blame them. There’s no way to know.”

Chesterfield Town Supervisor Gerald Morrow has not taken a stance on dissolution, and he said the two towns would do the best they can for village residents if Keeseville dissolves.

“The facts are out there. Let the people decide. Hopefully, they’re well informed.

“Whatever the decision is, I don’t have a problem with it,” he concluded.

‘REDUNDANT COSTS’

The dissolution vote is being held because resident Nancy Booth filed a valid petition signed by more voters than the 10 percent required under state law. Keeseville has about 955 registered voters out of 1,800 residents.

“I’m looking forward to the vote,” she said. “I’ve heard from people who want it (to dissolve). People will at least make the choice.”

Booth said she favors dissolution, herself.

“I feel it should be dissolved. We pay for a lot of redundant things. It’s about time the people get to speak.”

If voters OK dissolution, the Village Board must meet within 30 days and adopt a dissolution plan. The plan is subject to a permissive referendum that can also be petitioned to a public vote, and if that vote fails, the village does not dissolve.

‘NOT ESSENTIAL’

If that second vote were to pass, it would be phased out over a two-year period and its functions and property assumed by Chesterfield and AuSable.

All village jobs would also be ended, although the towns have indicated they’d give former village workers first priority in hiring to fill positions, and one person each would be hired for the water and sewer plants.

Lopez said she believes that would be fine.

“It’s eliminating a layer of government. I don’t see the Village of Keeseville as an essential item. It’s time to move into the 21st century.”

Free rides to the polls are available for anyone who wants one on Tuesday; call 834-7896 to sign up.

That’s King’s number — he said seven or so people have volunteered to drive voters, and someone will be by the phone throughout the day.

“We want everyone to get out and vote,” Casey said. “We’re a tight-knit community, and we care about each other.”

Email Lohr McKinstry:

lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com

TO LEARN MORE Find information on the plan for Village of Keeseville dissolution and copies of the study at: http://keeseville.ning.com.