Posted at: 01/28/2013 11:42 PM
By: Dan Levy
MIDDLEBURGH - After three centuries of existence, the historic village of Middleburgh may soon be erased from the map. On February 19th, village residents will vote on a special referendum whether to begin the dissolution of village government.
Even though may residents say they're concerned about the community losing its historic identity, the chief motivation behind the dissolution referendum seems to be saving money, and avoiding duplication of services.
In colonial days, Middleburgh, New York became known as the "Breadbasket of the American Revolution." Three hundred years after the village was first settled, after surviving catastrophic floods and economic hardship, modern day residents gathered in their high school auditorium Monday night to consider whether their historic community should be dissolved from existence.
"As a member of the village, you're taxed by the village and you're also taxed by the town but there's also a duplication of services," says Gary Hayes, Middleburgh's former mayor, who spearheaded a petition drive aimed at rubbing out the village.
If that were to happen, village government, including public works, planning, code enforcement, the village board, and the village fire department would be eliminated, leaving the town to take over control.
"It seems like we're putting too much of the burden on the town," said village resident Randy Meschutt, "That doesn't seem quite fair."
"I'm concerned. Is it going to affect me or hurt me?" asked Paul Hayes, Gary's brother, and owner of dozens of taxpaying properties in the village. "That's why I'm here at this meeting."
But even after the meeting ended, people were still uncertain which way to vote.
"(I don't have) even close (to the amount of information I need)," said Meschutt. "I didn't feel like we did before. I don't feel like we do now. There's still too much up in the air, still too many questions."
If people have a question about their safety, the Middleburgh fire chief says, there's nothing to worry about.
"We want to tell all our taxpayers not to be concerned," said Middleburgh Fire Chief Michael Devlin. "There will be fire protection no matter what."
Even though the right to vote may be the essence of democracy, some people don't see it that way right now in Middleburgh.
"I do think its undemocratic," says Wade Beltramo, of the New York State Conference of Mayors, "The way the process is structured, it requires the residents to vote on a very complex issue without having any information about what's going to happen."
There within lies the problem, many people on Monday night indicated they wish they'd have all the information they need, included whether or not it would affect their taxes, and how the plan would be implemented, before they vote.
The referendum comes on February 19th. If it passes, there'd be seven months to come up with a dissolution plan.