The Keeseville Civic Center — one of the village's oldest buildings — may be seeing its final days, despite public pleas to keep it open.
The Village Board voted 3 to 2 Tuesday night in favor of the proposed budget, which includes a measure to close the Civic Center.
At least 60 concerned citizens turned out to voice concern about closing the building, which was erected in 1936.
Ron Allen, a resident of Keeseville for more than 70 years and president of the Anderson Falls Heritage Society, said the group now has nowhere to go.
"In my entire life, I've never seen such a sham as this," he said of the meeting.
Allen said Keeseville taxpayers were not allowed to voice their opinions before the board until Tuesday night and were told they would have five minutes each. At the meeting, Mayor Meegan Rock limited the number of people who could speak and gave each speaker two minutes.
HOPING FOR HELP
The Village Board decided that repairs to the building would be too costly for the taxpayers of Keeseville, Trustee Robin Bezio said.
Bezio said he voted in favor of the budget because it could help force AuSable and Chesterfield — where Keeseville's court proceedings take place — to help the Village of Keeseville save the building. With those three entities coming together, there is a broader tax base, he said, which makes protecting the building a more realistic goal.
"I hope someone comes out of the woodwork," he said, such as a non-profit organization, to save the building.
Despite the large turnout of people against the measure, Bezio feels the opinions of the people were represented, as the trustees were voted in by Keeseville residents.
The Northern New York America-Canadian Genealogical Society, which is also situated in the Civic Center, may also be counting down its last days, President Gloria Pratt told the board.
The Senior Center, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts — all housed in the Civic Center — will also have to find new sites.
The State Police's Keeseville station is also located in the building, although another site has been looked at. With some changes, the police deemed the alternate building acceptable.
BLOW TO 'THE SOUL'
Stan Smith, who has lived in Keeseville for more than 40 years, said it would be a great loss to see the place go. He suggested that if the tax levy were kept the same instead of being decreased, it could help offset the cost of repairs to the building. He thought residents would rather pay the same tax rate than lose the building.
Mary King, a longtime board member, voted against the proposed budget, as she felt there were other options.
"It will affect the very soul of the village," she said.
King said she was not made aware of plans to close the Civic Center until just before a board meeting on April 1.
"I feel bad about that lack of communication," she said.
Residents also felt surprised at the announcement, Smith said, many not knowing the building might be closed until reading about it in the newspaper.
Trustee John Casey also voted against passage of the budget.
Many residents had graduated in the Civic Center and saw their children do the same.
When resident Ron Stanford asked those gathered to express their support, the auditorium erupted in applause and cheering.
"This place is embedded in my soul," he said.
Resident Phil Reines asked those gathered to think about the worn steps leading up to the building and the memories contained within.
"The history of Keeseville is written in those steps. You're going to lose much more than a building."
MAYOR'S PAY RAISED
The mayor's annual salary was increased in the budget from $9,541 in 2009-10 to $18,500 in 2010-11.
Also passed was a measure to begin metering houses for water use.
Keeseville residents will see some tax relief, because the levy is down 6.6 percent. This means the revenue raised by taxes will be decreased from $418,511 in 2009-10 to $390,630 for the 2010-11 fiscal year.