Petition Filed Challenging Port Henry Dissolution Plan
Last October, the residents of Port Henry approved 190-171 a petition to dissolve the village. Officials then had 180 days to develop a dissolution plan. Following a public hearing on the plan in April, opponents of dissolution have filed a new petition forcing a vote on the plan.
About 20 people concerned about dissolution have been meeting and the only way they determined the dissolution process in Port Henry could be halted is to have a referendum on the plan. Kim Gilbertson is one of the Port Henry residents who circulated and filed the petition. He says their primary concern is that the dissolution plan is advisory with no guarantees. “The plan is simply a recommendation for the town board to consider. Now they say they're going to follow this plan but there is no guarantee that they're going to follow it. In places that have dissolved there have been instances where the town board simply disregarded the plan that had been designed altogether. And so our group is concerned that all it would take is a little bit of budgetary stress and all of the things that they promised to do for the Village of Port Henry, you know, we would be told we can't do that, we don't have the money for it. So what we are interested in is neither just dissolution nor keeping the village but actually forming our own town.”
Dissolution supporter Linda Smyth says while the opponents of dissolution have a right to challenge it, she believes the plan that has been put forth is an excellent outline for the future. “I would like to see us have one government and that would also streamline the ability for business to come in instead of having to go through two different governments. And I might also add that there’s a hydro project that’s very close to becoming a reality. And if that comes about then the town of Moriah will, it’s like hitting the jackpot as far as the taxes.”
Deputy Mayor Matt Brassard reports that the village clerk has certified the petition. Of the 242 people who signed, 221 signatures were accepted — 35 percent of registered voters. Petitioners needed 25 percent. He is not surprised to see another petition despite the earlier vote supporting dissolution. “I'm not surprised at all especially with the original vote only being nineteen votes different. The village is still really split on this, I mean almost straight down the middle. Just from October until now our registered voters have gone from 588 people back in October to 634 registered voters now. And I would dare say that the majority of those people that have registered now are probably people that want to keep the village. So I expect a very, very close vote. I wouldn't be surprised if it's closer than what it was back in October.”
The village board will likely set a date for the referendum during its June meeting. The vote must be set between August 12th and September 11th. If the plan is voted down the dissolution process stops.