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North Country News

Village Dissolution Votes In Two North Country Communities

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The future of two northern New York villages is in the hands of their residents today as they decide whether the communities should be dissolved.
The St. Lawrence County village of Hermon and the Essex County village of Port Henry are facing dissolution.

Port Henry, on the southwestern shore of Lake Champlain, has a population of about 1,200.  Deputy Mayor Matt Brassard explains that the dissolution process began when a handful of village residents circulated a petition.   “Their feeling was that the village tax was a burden on business growth in the village and the ability to sell homes.  So that’s where it all stemmed from really.  They feel that the extra tax is hindering the village from prospering.  If dissolution were to occur, we would then have to start developing a dissolution plan and in that plan we would address things like employees transferring to the town, any village assets transferring to the town, things of that nature.  The current village residents if we were to dissolve would see their town tax rate increase.  But it wouldn’t increase to the amount of what the current village tax rate is.  So there is a savings in taxes that would be paid.”

But Port Henry residents would also lose some services. The Town of Moriah would discontinue garbage and recycling pickup in the village of Port Henry.  Plowing of sidewalks inside the village would be limited and the village fire department would be absorbed into the town.

Town of Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava says there are services they would be required to provide and some employees would be transferred.  He’s anticipating a very close vote.   “It’s become a very emotional  issue.  The one thing that I can see come out of this is that both the town and village should and can do more in regards to sharing services. We’ve come a long way in that regard, in sharing services, but there’s still more that we can do. But some of the areas that we would want to do that the state ties our hands because of your two different tax bases.  I think the state needs to take a look at not so much on the dissolving of villages,  because  that becomes an emotional issue.  I think it should be more focused on what can a town and village do jointly together to save everybody in that community tax dollars.”

Unlike Port Henry’s citizen effort, the village of Hermon, with a 2010 population of 415, petitioned the state of New York requesting permission to dissolve.  Town of Hermon Supervisor Lee Carvel says the community has considered the option for decades.   “It keeps getting harder and harder for a smaller village like this to make it.  You know, people move out and the businesses are all gone.  All there is now is a gas station and a bank when there used to be everything else.  Financially the village board has kept the village coffers in very good shape.  But it’s so small there’s nothing to tax and nobody to pay the taxes.  So it’s kind-of come to a head. Now we’re having the vote.”

Polls in both village dissolution votes are open until 9 p.m.