LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The village and town of Lake George have hired a firm to study what it would mean for the two to become one – in terms of taxes, resources and owners’ shares of projects. The study is happening right as the region’s busy summer tourist season gets underway, with Americade having kicked the season off last week.
Village Mayor Bob Blais told NEWS10 last week that he believes that the timing was intentional on the part of the authors of a petition that forced the topic to be researched now. On Wednesday, the petition’s author denied that timing had anything to do with it.
“That wasn’t even something that was thought about, as far as the timing was concerned,” said Doug Frost, Town of Lake George Code Enforcement Officer and the main voice behind the petition that has pushed the study into being. “Really, the reason that it was done was that they had chosen to not move forward with a process that they had already started. That kind of took away the opportunity for the residents to get the information, or for it to go to a vote.”
The village and town had taken steps earlier this year to have a study done – at the time planned to be held in the fall. The hold was placed for two reasons. One was that a pair of village officials were retiring at a time that would make the study more difficult. The other was the construction of a $24 million wastewater treatment plant project. Last week, Blais said that the village worried that considering dissolution would be a bad look while seeking funding sources for the plant.
“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. That’s how simple that is,” Blais described.
Frost, a lifelong village resident and one-time village employee, felt that it wouldn’t be right to let the topic pass by without the public ever getting to cast a vote. He created a petition that was signed by 105 village residents – 99 after a few were disqualified. For the village, that was enough to hit the 10% minimum needed to bring the issue back.
While the village of Lake George encompasses a small area around Lake George’s tip, the town extends for 36 square miles. That space has seen its share of development in recent years, from houses to condominiums. As things stand now, that growth will help the town when tax assessments are evaluated, but the village won’t get any of that. Frost feels that should change.
Now, one way or another, that petition has brought a vote date into being. LaBerge Group, the firm tasked with studying dissolution, is expected to finish work in August. Once the findings are complete, Blais hopes to hold public information sessions prior to the planned community vote date of Sept. 13.
“Deep down, yes, I believe that (dissolution) will save us money,” said Frost. “Ultimately, it’s up to the residents to make the decision. If the residents decide that they don’t want to dissolve the village, I respect that.”
Dissolution can often be explored by towns looking to use village resources to offset financial or staffing shortcomings. In Lake George’s case, it’s the other way around: the village of Lake George carries more debt, resources and liability than the town.
Meanwhile, the summer continues into motion. Americade ended over the weekend. Mayor Blais has stated his intention to do the absolute best job he and his office can do to get every piece of information to LaBerge on time, no matter how much is happening in the village. Frost feels, ultimately, that the time of year doesn’t change the reality of the situation.
“I don’t think it’s a valid reason, in the sense that they had an opportunity to do it in their own timeframe, and they chose not to. I don’t know why they would think that just squashing the idea of doing a study would not spur the residents on to take it into their own hands.”