Press-Republican

October 20, 2013

Keeseville residents torn over dissolution

By CHRIS FASOLINO
Press-Republican

---- — KEESEVILLE — With the vote on the dissolution plan for their village fast approaching, Keeseville residents are considering both the past and the future.

For Christa Zoeller, co-owner of Kingsland Square Bistro and Bakery on Front Street, the idea is a melancholy one.

“If you dissolve a village after it’s been here so many years, you’re really just saying you don’t care.”

Thus, Zoeller hopes that the dissolution plan will be voted down Tuesday. She said she doesn’t get into politics, but “I just want community support to work.”

HOPING FOR GROWTH

Zoeller and business partner Jim Hewitt opened the Bistro and Bakery in May; she and her husband, Robert, have lived in Keeseville for six years.

Mr. Zoeller also hopes the village will not be dissolved. 

“We’ve noticed new stuff coming in,” he said, expressing the hope that the village would grow. 

Business at the bistro was good during the summer, and the Zoellers are hoping that their change to gluten-free food will boost business during the potentially quieter fall and winter months.

Mr. Zoeller added another concern about dissolution, saying that he believes taxes, as well as water and sewer costs, would go up as a result.

“That’s my understanding.”

‘BARELY SQUEAKING BY’

But Leon “Butch” Clodgo, Keeseville resident and member of the Keeseville Village Joint Dissolution Study Committee, sees things differently.

“The village is always struggling to stay afloat financially. They’re just barely squeaking by all the time.”

He believes taxes would go down, and feels the savings in salaries would be important — for example, eliminating the salaries of the mayor and Board of Trustees of Keeseville.

Dissolution would be a good idea, he said, because it eliminates “a layer of government.”

Clodgo said the people of Keeseville have a choice.

“The people are going to have to vote either with their heart or their wallet. If you vote with your wallet, you’ll vote to dissolve,” he said.

Former Keeseville Mayor Meegan Rock agrees with dissolving “a layer of government.”

“I believe that once this process of dissolution is complete, taxpayers will not even see a change in services and will not have that third tax bill,” Rock said in a recent Press-Republican Letter to the Editor. “Vote ‘yes’ on the plan, and you the taxpayer will prosper at the end of the day.”

‘CAN’T TAKE IT BACK’

Mark Jarnot was in Keeseville Free Library on Saturday researching a book that he is working on.

“Some of my friends are for the dissolution of the village, and some are against it,” he said. “I say, let the chips fall where they may — and I stand by my friends.”

Maria Dezotell, who runs the Keeseville Laundromat, has a house in the village and also works as a teacher in Vermont, has given the issue of dissolution considerable thought.

“I think people should be very aware at this time of what they are giving up.”

Dezotell believes that the dissolution study that is up for vote is not reliable and does not accurately calculate the costs involved.

“Looking at history, we know from other villages that have dissolved, that people want it back afterwards. 

“But once you give it to someone else, you can’t take it back.”

‘TAKES A VILLAGE’

Dezotell said that she owns a house in Vermont similar to the one she owns in Keeseville, but her taxes across the lake are three times as high. 

And her work at the laundromat has convinced her that water prices are more reasonable in Keeseville than they would be in nearby communities, such as Plattsburgh.

The financial situation of the village, she feels, is improving and can continue to do so.  

“Just look at this sight here,” she said, gesturing at Front Street in Keeseville. “Look at how beautiful it is. There were people coming during the summer taking pictures. 

“This is a historic place, and people are paying big money to come here.”

Dezotell, who was sweeping the sidewalk outside her business, said she feels that such a sense of responsibility is important in dealing with problems and keeping communities strong.

“As a teacher, I say, it takes a village to raise a child — and it takes a community to make a village.”