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Village Of Salem One Step Closer To Dissolution

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The Village of Salem has voted to approve a draft dissolution plan. After a voter petition was brought forward last year, in August village residents overwhelmingly approved to dissolve their village government.

The community of 946 residents is located in Washington County, near the Vermont border.

Under New York law regarding dissolution, following the August vote, the village had up to 180 days to develop the draft dissolution plan approved Tuesday night.

Village clerk Rebecca Brown said the village must schedule at least one public hearing on the draft plan.

“In the interim the village will be continuing to review and get questions answered and meeting with our attorney to go over the plan. And of course there’s the opportunity for amendment up until the plan must be finally adopted.”

After the last public hearing, the village has 60 days to finalize a dissolution plan, then a 45-day window opens where another petition could be raised to put the issue to another vote.

Brown said the current draft  plan has an effective date of December 31 of this year. If everything goes through, village residents will be represented by town officials. The dissolution will remove the village clerk, and will affect the village library, which would stay open but need to reorganize under a new charter.  The village’s water and public works departments will also be affected.

Town of Salem supervisor Seth Pitts said the town will first set up new water and lighting districts for the residents of the former village.

“And then we’re going to have to take a look – we have up to two years to take a look at all the village laws and determine if we want to keep them or we already have something on the books that is similar. So that process have already started.”

Pitts said the town is in a “holding pattern” right now until the 45-day window for further petitioning is closed.

“Once that window is closed, then it’s full steam ahead.”

Pitts said the dissolution of the village would eliminate duplicative processes.

“From where we sit and what we’re trying to accomplish. I think we’re going to have a positive outcome for everybody in the town and the village.”

Under New York’s dissolution law, the town of Salem would receive $130,000 annually in financial aid.

Peter Baynes, Executive Director of the New York Conference Of Mayors, said changes in New York’s dissolution law made in 2011 have resulted in more communities considering dissolution, in part because it’s now easier for petitioners to bring forward a vote.

This, he said, has not affected the rate of villages dissolving, however. Baynes said these days villages are under many pressures that contribute to discussion.

“Pressures on local governments, trying to stay under the tax cap, trying to keep taxes low, there are more communities that are having that discussion. But that’s the beauty of village government in New York. It’s the only local government that is created by the people and is eliminated by the people. So as long as there’s an educated discussion being had within these communities, whatever they decide to do, whether they dissolve or not, is the right decision.”

In June, voters in the nearby Village of Greenwich voted against dissolution.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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