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Village abolition prompts some controversy

LAKE GEORGE With the recent gubernatorial decree requiring budget cuts statewide, Lake George village officials see now as the time to attack what they see as inefficient governmental overlap. The village is once again probing the potential implications of municipal dissolution and an associated consolidation with the town of Lake George. However, this has proven to be a controversial topic, with town and village residents often voicing concern and dissent. Longtime Lake George Village Mayor Robert Blais said this week that the concept of village dissolution is sweeping the state, following a state recommendation to do so. The state intends this to be a method of reducing municipal overlap and waste. Blais said this overlap is a drain on citizens as well as the state. We are currently conducting a study, but I am confident that there would be a savings for everyone involved, Blais said. The time is right to do this - the end should be now. Blais explained that many services provided to Lake George citizens are already consolidated entities. The court system, the fire department and the waste water plant are among the institutions which jointly serve village and town citizens at present, Blais said. The average citizen asks, why do I need two trucks, from different municipalities working on the same street, often going in apposing directions, Blais said. As it is right now, village taxpayers are also town taxpayers-they get charged twice. Many village employees have voiced concern regarding their livelihoods. Blais explained that typically employees would not lose their jobs as a result of dissolution. The town will need these people, he said. Most of them will move into town positions its just far more efficient. Scott Walton, town resident and the most vocal member of the government watchdog group Lake George Homeowners Association, said in a recent interview that village dissolution and consolidation into the town of Lake George would likely put an unnecessary strain on non-village Lake George taxpayers. Everyone in local government spends money like crazy, Walton said. This may well be a disadvantage to town residents. A primary concern of the LGHA is the $3.5 million village debt, which Walton fears may be unloaded on the town. Furthermore, Walton said expenses like village pension payments and operating costs would put an unjust burden on town taxpayers. Nobody has taken a good look at the implications of consolidation, he said. The ramifications of such an action are unknown. According to Blais it is his understanding that a Village District would be created, and the burden of debt repayment would fall on taxpayers within this district alone. Furthermore, Blais noted that the only pensions the town would be required to cover would belong to individuals who were hired in a similar capacity within the newly expanded town. The sale of unneeded village machinery and technology would help mitigate the costs, Blais said. The infrastructure, placement of the village and economics all make sense, Blais said. With the village being at the physical center of town, its perfect. Walton said he believes Blais is strong arming the issue and not listening to dissenting opinions. They vilify everyone who asks questions, Walton said. But Blais said he expects people to be wary of change, especially individuals who are very proud of residing within the village of Lake George or the town of Lake George. The name means nothing, he said. As long as its a community, thats what matters. A Dissolution Review Committee, composed of village and town officials, is now working in concert with Elan Consulting and Fairweather Consulting conducting a study of the potential effectiveness. I just ask that everyone holds judgment until the study is complete, Blais said. With some mutual cooperation, this would be advantageous for the entire community. Walton sees this as just another way to require middle class, year-round residents to pay for the villages tourism industry. Someone has to think about the middle class- the people who live here, he said. I dont trust the villages motivations.

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