From front left, Keeseville Village Trustee Kathleen Klages, trustee John Casey, attorney John Clute, Mayor Dale Holderman, New York State Department of State representative Sean Maguire, Trustee Mary King and Trustee Robin Bezio.
The village of Keeseville has started down the road that could lead to the end of the incorporated municipality.
Mayor Dale Holderman and New York Department of State representative Sean Maguire spoke to members of the Board of Trustees and residents Feb. 12 about the next steps in the dissolution process.
"We are accepting the vote as legal tonight, and our time clock starts tonight for 180 days," Holderman said. "We have that time to present this dissolution plan to the public. We will probably have one or two public hearings on it and take into consideration the comments of the public. Then we will come back as a board and approve a plan."
Holderman also outlined the process to bring the dissolution plan to a permissive referendum if 25 percent of village residents signed a petition within 45 days of the village accepting the plan.
"The vote is a vote to approve or not approve the plan that the trustees accept," Holderman said. "If the plan was voted down then, the process would be stopped."
Holderman added that if the plan were voted down, his understanding was that there would be a four-year moratorium on another dissolution vote, which Maguire contested.
"The four-year moratorium is only on the first vote (whether to move forward with the dissolution process)," Maguire said. "If the permissive referendum should fail, there is no moratorium. The way the law is written, it is non-specific as to what happens after. Conventional thinking is that you presented the best plan to the public and it was not accepted."
Maguire said that if a referendum were to defeat the plan, the village would have options as well as the residents who are registered voters.
"It grants the board the opportunity to amend the plan," Maguire said. "It grants the board the latitude to present a revised plan. You could face another petition. You could re-present the same plan. It could be a vicious cycle."
Maguire also said he was concerned that the state was being seen in a bad light in the process.
"There is an opinion piece that says we are going out there to dissolve village by village," he said. "We are here to try to help you through the process."
Dissolution Committee member Linda Guimond addressed the board during the meeting, stating that she felt the village was not talking enough about the work that the group had done.
"There is a plan that has been presented to you," Guimond said. "We worked hard for nine months to put this plan together."
Holderman said that the village will use the plan as a base, as well as public input, to create a finalized plan.
"I think that there is a perceived notion that we are going to change the plan that has been presented to us," Holderman said. "It is our job to present the best possible plan to the residents. We have the plan that has been presented to us, but we have not looked at it yet."
Guimond also recommended that officials from the two towns affected by potential dissolution, Chesterfield and Ausable, be part of the process over the next 180 days.
"They are going to make their own plans," she said. "I would almost hope that the Village Board would want to work with the two towns. I would think that I would only make our community better to work as a whole and not as polar opposites."
Holderman said that whether the two sides work together or not, there is no guarantee that either town will respect the wishes of the village once it is gone.
"The village is a corporation. If the corporation makes an agreement and the corporation dissolves, there is no more entity," Holderman said. "You have a one-sided contract from that point out."
Trustee Kathleen Klages talked about the economics of dissolution, saying she felt a large majority of the houses in the village were going to be negatively impacted by dissolution.