Keeseville Mayor Dale Holderman.
The time for the Keeseville Village Board to decide the village’s future is drawing near.
On Aug. 28, a presentation hosted by Wade Beltramo, a general counsel from the New York Conference of Mayors, addressed questions and concerns regarding the process of village dissolution in New York state.
Residents attending the meeting mostly voiced concerns over how water and sewer services will be handled if Keeseville were to dissolve into the towns of Chesterfield and Au Sable Forks.
Beltramo stressed that those concerns were valid, and that they should be addressed before a decision is made.
Currently, a dissolution study board comprised of village and town officials and residents, is drafting dissolution options for the village.
The purpose of the study board is to present an unbiased plan to the village board, who will then vote on whether to proceed based on the plan.
If the board decides to move forward, dissolution of the village will be put to a vote by village residents.
If the board decides not to move forward a petition, which must be signed by 10 percent of village residents, or about 109 signatures, can force a dissolution vote among residents.
Members of the village board are supposed to remain neutral until the dissolution study board presents its plan for a vote.
But not everyone on the village board is staying neutral.
Keeseville Mayor Dale Holderman spoke up at the meeting and quoted Thomas Jefferson, who Holderman said believed that funds should stay close to the community.
“I was neutral all the way up until the last meeting,” Holderman said. “I wanted to see what the cost savings were, and how services would be provided outside of a village government, and I just don’t feel that the savings are worth what you’re going to lose.”
Holderman said that his role in the committee will not be compromised by his bias that the village should not dissolve, and that he will continue to look after village residents’ best interests.
He is afraid, though, that those best interests don’t align with dissolution.
“I’m going to continue to try to make the study and the plan the best that I can for the taxpayer, because ultimately, it’s up to them.” Holderman said. “The thing I don’t like about the dissolution process is that even with all the intermunicipal agreements and the pre-planning you can have, nobody is held to it by law.”
After years of struggling with empty store fronts, a bad reputation and a lack of activity along Front Street, the village’s main hub, Holderman also said that Keeseville is finally starting to improve, and that the village has been on an encouraging course over the past year.
Despite the progress, Holderman acknowledged that there is still a lot of work to do to improve Keeseville, and he said he already has plans.
“I’m on Front Street now, and I see the architecture and the flower boxes under every tree, and it’s gorgeous,” Holderman said. “Let’s just step it up a little. That’s really what’s in the works now.”
The village is currently looking into getting the civic center up and running, getting new sidewalks for Front Street, creating a river walk and a trail from Keeseville to Ausable Chasm.
“If we don’t dissolve, one of the next places we’re going to go is our zoning laws, to bring them up to date,” Holderman said. “We’ve also gone into depth on our water systems and efficiencies there.”
Overall, Holderman said he believes Keeseville needs time to grow on its own.
“I own two businesses. I don’t need this job,” Holderman said. “I took this mayor’s job for the specific purpose of promoting the idea of turning our community around.”