LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The village and town of Lake George are two separate entities. The scope of their respective business encompasses different amounts of space – the village is everything walkable from Canada Street within a small radius, while the town covers around 36 square miles. Much of the governance of Lake George’s tourist economy is handled by the former, while the town operates a supervisor’s office, highway department and other services.
This year, town and village have been considering dissolving into one. This summer, they’re having to handle the process at a time that village Mayor Bob Blais didn’t anticipate – all thanks to the timing of a petition from members of the community.
“It’s an extremely busy time for us, as you might imagine, to be able to go through this. It’s probably the worst time,” said Blais on Tuesday.
The town and village have hired the firm LaBerge Group to look into what would change for both halves of Lake George if they consolidated. The firm’s work, expected to be complete in mid-August, will feature plenty of information on how tax rates could change for village and town residents and businesses. The mayor has set a date for Sept. 13 for the community to vote on dissolving the village government into the town.
It’s not coming at an easy time. For example, this week, LaBerge requested several pages of documentation that is taking time for the village to procure and prepare – right as the 2022 Americade motorcycle festival takes to the lakeside community, kicking off a classic busy summer for the area.
The community had taken some forward steps earlier this year on a plan to perform the study in the fall. It was decided that the study should be put on hold for two reasons – a $24 million wastewater treatment plant project, and two retiring village officials (water manager and clerk). For both funding the wastewater plant, and hiring new staff members, a village contemplating dissolution is a tough sell.
“It’s like a company going to the bank, asking for a $100 million loan, and you find out the company’s in the process of going out of business,” Blais said. “That’s how simple that is.”
Now, a vote is set for Sept. 13 on whether the village should dissolve. The vote was forced by a recent petition by a former village employee, which was signed by more than the minimum requisite 10% of voters needed to bring the petition before the village.
The petition was not made available to NEWS10. As for why it came now, Blais pointed to his own description of what a difficult time of year it is to handle proceedings such as these.
“I believe this situation was, itself, the reason,” he said. “We’re going to do the very best that we can to get the information out to the public, and then we will hold the vote in September.”
LaBerge’s study will cost $27,500, which Blais is hoping to offset through a state grant which he says will cover 90%, should the town be awarded it. That will leave about $2,700 for the town and village to split. Blais plans to hold two public meetings on the dissolution – one in August, and the other just before the September vote.
Blais said that under most circumstances, dissolution is studied in towns that are experiencing financial or employment problems, which would be offset by bringing village funds and staff into the fold. Typically, those communities don’t have many assets or employees on their own. In Lake George, the roles are reversed.
“This study now will be exactly the opposite. The village assets and the village liabilities and debt and services are all extensively larger than the towns. That’s exactly the opposite of what dissolution usually is.”
Dates for public information meetings have yet to be set. The vote on whether to dissolve the village is set for Sept. 13.