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Chaumont merchants back dissolution

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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CHAUMONT — The proposed dissolution of this 137-year-old village has the support of several downtown business owners.
Chaumont officials last year started taking steps to dissolve the village and turn over government duties to the town of Lyme in hopes of reducing redundancies — and costs — in municipal services.
Business owners like the move.
“I'm all for less government,” Chaumont Bay Marina owner John E. Adams said. “I don't think they're going to save a whole lot of money, because Lyme and Chaumont are sharing a lot of resources already, but there might be a small saving in village and town taxes.”
Gregory M. Netto, owner of the Chaumont Hardware store, and Jamie L. Bliven, owner of the Duck Stop Diner, agree.
“It makes sense to me,” Mr. Netto said. “They seem to work as one entity already. If it's going to lower taxes, I'd say go for it.”
Ms. Bliven said that the village government has been struggling to maintain its infrastructure with a limited amount of money and that joining forces with the town might be beneficial in the long run.
“I think it's a good idea. Money-wise, I think this is the only option left for the village,” she said.
Mayor Valerie E. Rust, who is spearheading the effort, said Monday that two consultants have responded to the village's request for proposals to conduct a study on the pros and cons of the proposed merger.
She said the study, which is funded by a $45,000 state grant, is necessary for residents to make informed decisions and to “make sure there are no surprises” after the dissolution takes place.
The village board will hold several public hearings this year and could schedule a public vote as soon as March 2012.
If voters approve the proposal, the village government would be given just a little more than a year to dissolve itself, under the Government Reorganization Act.
What about employees?
Lyme Town Supervisor Scott G. Aubertine had said the town Highway Department would absorb the village Department of Public Works crew and the town government could hire the village clerk as a deputy town clerk to handle the extra work.
Mrs. Rust said the two village DPW workers, who maintain the village's sewer and water systems, have told her they believe the transition will be smooth.
“Because they work so closely with the town highway superintendent, they've told me that it's just a matter of semantics,” she said.
Also, she said, town taxpayers will not be burdened by the cost of adding two workers to the town Highway Department, because water and sewer systems operate on a special district fund that is maintained through rates paid by users and does not affect the levy.
A dissolution proposal made a decade ago was defeated by residents who wished to keep Chaumont's identity as a village. The collection of houses and businesses was named in 1833 after its founder, James D. LeRay de Chaumont, and was incorporated as a village in 1874.
Mrs. Rust said the dissolution of the village government does not mean Chaumont will lose its name.
Like any other hamlet in the area — such as Three Mile Bay, Depauville or Redwood — the U.S. Postal Service will continue to send mail to “Chaumont,” she said.
Village Trustee Michael J. Nichols said that the thought of dissolving the 137-year-old village is “a bit sad,” but that he believes merging municipalities to increase government efficiency is the way to go.
“And it's not just us,” he said. “Many other villages will have to do the same thing.”
Dissolution timetable
The village's timetable for dissolution is defined by the Government Reorganization Act. After a public referendum:
n Once voters approve the dissolution, the village would have 30 days to meet with the Town Council and then would be given 180 days to propose and approve a preliminary plan for dissolution.
n Within five days after the plan is approved, it must be made public and the governments again must hold at least one public hearing within the next 90 days.
n The final consolidation plan must be approved within 60 days from the last public hearing and the government entities will consolidate on the date specified in the final plan, which must be at least 45 days after that plan is approved.

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