Friday, November 19, 2010

Lake George Village Board Rejects Dissolution

Established in 1903, Lake George Village will survive intact beyond December, 2013, the date it would have ceased to exist had a vote to dissolve been placed on the ballot and approved in March, 2011.

In a vote that surprised even Mayor Bob Blais, Lake George Village’s Board of Trustees decided on November 15 not to put the question to a vote in March.

“As far as the Village Board is concerned, dissolution is a dead issue,” said Blais.

Although the Village Board could revisit the proposal some time in the future, the trustees acknowledged that this was unlikely.

Too many questions about the costs to taxpayers and the future of municipal services if the Village dissolved and merged with the surrounding township remained unanswered, and answers are unlikely to be forthcoming, they said.

Village officials had hoped to develop a plan in consultation with Town officials that would explain in detail how assets and liabilities would be distributed among the residents of a new, single community, but Town officials refused to co-operate, said Blais.

In the absence of a plan explaining how assets would be treated, what special taxing districts would be formed and how debt service would be handled, one agreed to by the Town, a vote to dissolve could have been a mistake, said Blais.

“People would have had no idea what they were voting for,” he said.

Town Supervisor Frank McCoy would commit to nothing more than stating that “if dissolution occurs, the Town will work to ensure a smooth transition,” said Blais, quoting a message from McCoy.

A study of the feasibility of dissolution, drafted by a consulting firm and overseen by a local committee, indicated that if the two municipalities merged, Village residents would see their taxes decrease by 19% to 30% while town taxes would rise by as much as 40%.

“It’s clear to me that the Town doesn’t want us,” said Trustee John Earl.

Trustee John Root, who chaired the committee appointed in 2008 to study the costs and benefits of dissolution, said he had favored putting the measure to a vote until Monday’s meeting, when every Lake George resident present opposed dissolution.

“Their concerns were understandable,” said Root. “I’m glad we’ve held public hearings; the residents have spoken loudly and clearly that they do not favor dissolution.”

Some residents, like Micky Onofrietto, Barbara Neubauer, and Doug Frost, for example, said that an uninformed vote would be detrimental to the interests of the residents themselves.

“I feel uncomfortable putting it to a vote, without people looking into it as I did, when I found that we had no way of knowing the true costs,” said Micky Onofrietto.

“I might save on taxes but lose on services,” said Barbara Neubauer.

Former Village Trustee and Tom Tom Shop owner Doug Frost said that as a businessman, he feared losing the benefit of the Village’s expertise in promoting special events and weekly attractions like fireworks shows that draw tourists to Lake George.

Town residents Joe Stanek, Karen Azer and Mike Sejuljic emphasized the differences in priorities and styles of governance between the Town and the Village.

“A 28% tax increase, borrowing to meet payroll, paying its bills late; the town should get its own affairs in order before incorporating another government,” said Azer.

After listening to public comments, Mayor Blais said that while dissolution was appropriate for some villages, Lake George Village remained a viable entity.

“In most cases, villages’ assets are not as large as ours, they’re barely surviving financially, they have small populations and they can’t find people to serve in elected or appointed offices,” said Blais.

Trustee Ray Perry introduced the motion to take no action on dissolution. It passed unanimously.

Photo: Aerial view of Lake George from the Lake George Mirror photo files.

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Anthony F. Hall

Anthony F. Hall is the editor and publisher of the Lake George Mirror.

Anthony grew up in Warrensburg and after an education that included studying with beat poet Gregory Corso on an island in the Aegean, crewing a schooner in Hawaii, traveling through Greece and Turkey studying Byzantine art and archeology, and a stint at Lehman Brothers, he returned to the Adirondacks and took a job with legendary state senator Ron Stafford.

In 1998, Anthony and his wife Lisa acquired the Lake George Mirror, once part of a chain of weekly newspapers owned by his father Rob Hall.

Established in the 1880s, the Mirror is America’s oldest resort newspaper.





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