Residents Discuss Port Henry Dissolution Plan
Last October, the residents of Port Henry, New York approved a petition to dissolve the village. A contentious meeting was held last night to discuss the dissolution plan.
The Essex County village of Port Henry, on the southwestern shore of Lake Champlain, has a population of about 1,200. Last summer a citizen petition circulated calling for dissolution. In late October village residents voted 190 to 171 to dissolve.
Village officials then had 180 days to develop a dissolution plan and hold a public hearing. That meeting was held Tuesday evening.
Deputy Mayor and village trustee Matt Brassard estimates 80 to 85 percent of residents who attended oppose dissolution. “They’re trying to spearhead a grassroots effort to get a petition so they can vote on the plan which is all part of the process. If they get 25 percent of the registered voters on a petition they can make the village vote again. But not on dissolution, you’re voting on the plan. And the state’s position is if the plan is voted down dissolution stops at that point.”
Sun Community News reporter Keith Lobdell confirmed that most of those who attended are opponents of dissolution. He characterizes the meeting as contentious. “It seemed like the majority of the people there were against the dissolution plan. And there was a moment where one of the new village trustees, James Curran, he said that he didn’t think that there were a lot of people in there, he put a number at 80 percent that hadn’t read the dissolution plan. And that kind of set off some fireworks. Another thing that’s got people upset is when the village closed the public hearing, they had a feeling that they had closed the full meeting and that wasn’t the case.”
The Town of Moriah will absorb most, but not all, services currently provided by the village.
Port Henry resident Nancy Gilbertson attended the meeting and says compared to others, this one was civil. She is concerned that the plan is non-binding between the village and town. “If there could be some legal language in the plan I would be more inclined to consider it. But I know that there are other possible ways to achieve tax relief that we’re actually not permitted to pursue as long as dissolution is in process.”
Town Supervisor Tom Scozzafava says even though the dissolution plan is advisory, the town board has committed to its provisions. “It’s a consolidation of services that could be provided at much less of a cost than what we’re currently paying. And to be very truthful, having a village in one of the highest tax rates in the state has stymied any development within the village. That’s why you see the empty storefronts. It’s a duplication of government.”
Village trustees approved the dissolution plan on a vote of 4 to 1. Brassard explains there is now a 45-day period in which residents can petition a vote on the plan. “They need to get about 150 to 160 signatures and there was more than that that voted to keep the village. So I fully expect that we’ll be voting on this plan sometime in late summer. If the plan does get voted down we will be the first village to vote a plan down in the state.”
If residents successfully petition for a vote on the dissolution plan and the plan is rejected, the dissolution process stops.