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Lake George Village residents vote against dissolution

A view of Lake George Village (WAMC file photo)
Pat Bradley
A view of Lake George Village

Voters in Lake George overwhelmingly rejected a referendum to dissolve the village on Tuesday.

On the heels of a voter petition earlier this year, the Village of Lake George held a special election on Tuesday to ask residents whether to dissolve the village government.

In a vote of 269 to 59, village residents decided to keep things as is.

Mayor Bob Blais, who has served in his role for five decades, was opposed to the referendum. He welcomed the results of the election on Wednesday.

“It’s a great credit to our employees that keep that level of services up there, and also to the village board that responds to the people when they have a problem,” said Blais.

A petition to dissolve the village signed by residents was filed last spring by Doug Frost, a local business owner. Frost told WAMC in June the village residents deserved a say in its future, and that the village was missing out on economic growth benefitting the Town of Lake George.

“I look at the town, and the town has things going on all over the place. And I think for, as a village resident, I would want to be a part of that growth,” said Frost.

Frost’s petition effort came several months after the village board decided to postpone a study on dissolution.

While the idea has been discussed before, this was the first time it came to a vote.

Prior to the referendum, a firm was hired to examine the impact of village dissolution.

A study completed by the Laberge Group this summer predicted village taxpayers could see an initial tax savings around 30 percent, but Blais cautioned residents nothing would be guaranteed after dissolution.

Leading up to the vote, the village board approved a plan to move $3 million from a parking meter savings account into next year’s budget – which the mayor said could reduce next year’s taxes by 35 percent.

New York state government has a program that incentivizes local government consolidations. However, unlike other communities that have considered dissolution in New York, Lake George Village has a larger budget than the surrounding town. The village and town already share a number of services.

Still, Mayor Blais said the village may consider other ways to find efficiencies in the future.

“Informally, we’ve been discussing on doing another study on consolidation, which would also include annexation and also include coterminous town-village. All of those three are available under state and municipal law,” said Blais.

Lake George Town Supervisor Dennis Dickinson is supportive of the idea but said he wants to take a brief pause before the town resumes discussions about consolidations.

“We spent a lot of time and effort on the dissolution of the village, going through their report. We’ve been to all their meetings. And we have all been interviewed with Laberge in relation to the dissolution, so we have a lot of information. But I think it’s a little premature. I think after the first of the year we will start talking about maybe putting together a committee and getting Laberge to continue that study, including consolidation,” said Dickinson.

Blais said unlike the dissolution referendum brought by a petition, which carried a 90-day timeframe, future conversations about consolidation don’t face such a strict time limit.

“We just need time to digest this great result that the village people have given us, and we also have to look at the fact that they don’t want the village to go away at all. Maybe they just like things the way they are,” said Blais.

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