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Herrings officials look into, opt against dissolution

JOHNSON NEWSPAPERS
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HERRINGS — Officials in this tiny village are not interested in dissolving the municipality, but they have looked into what might happen if they ever decide it is the right move.


"We've talked about it, but it's not something we want to do," said interim Mayor Richard A. Beirman Sr.


Mr. Beirman took office Jan. 1 in place of David M. Arnold, who resigned Dec. 10, citing health issues. James D. Camidge resigned as trustee the same day.


Mr. Beirman and new Trustees Lance D. Micek and James C. Childers met earlier this month with Kathleen M. Amyot of the Tug Hill Commission, who gave the board resources should they decide to disband.


"A lot goes into dissolving a village," Mr. Beirman said. "It's not something that's going to happen overnight."


The much larger village of Potsdam is considering dissolution, Chaumont is about to begin a dissolution study and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has made government consolidation a key issue for his administration.


The lengthy process to dissolving the village would involve studies, meetings between Herrings and town of Wilna officials and public hearings.


Mr. Beirman said dissolution of the village, which was incorporated in 1921, has been mentioned throughout the years, but the board has never moved forward with the idea.


As of the 2000 census, there were 129 residents and 42 properties in the village. Although the 2010 census information is not yet available, Village Clerk Mona R. Thomas estimated there are 131 residents and 42 properties in the village now.


The village has only three employees, who serve as the Department of Public Works and Highway Department and manage the sewage treatment plant. The men are hourly, part-time workers. The village budget for 2010-11 is $112,365.85. The village budgeted $4,000 for street maintenance, $5,500 for snow removal and $44,236 for the village sewer district. The village tax levy, or amount to be raised by taxes, is $43,415.85.


It is uncertain what would happen to those employees if the village chose to dissolve.


Fire protection services are provided by the village of Deferiet Fire Department, and Jefferson County handles all village code enforcement.


Town of Wilna Supervisor Paul H. Smith said the village does not contract with the town for any services.


There is a question among the village board as to whether dissolution could put a halt to the Deferiet-Herrings shared municipal water project, which has been in the works since 2006.


"We've got to think about the water project," Mr. Beirman said. "If we dissolve, it's going to be a lot longer before we get good water in this village."


However, according to Ms. Amyot, the project would be unaffected and all grant funding would remain intact.


With the project, the villages hope to install a new water storage tank in Deferiet, which also will service Herrings water users. Water lines in Herrings that were installed in the 1920s will be replaced, and a new water tower will be built.


After speaking with Mr. Smith about the effect dissolution would have on taxes, Mr. Beirman said taxes likely would increase because some of the grant money on the water project would need to be paid back after completion.


"We'll still have a balance on the sewer and once the water project goes through, some of that money will need to be paid back," he said. "That would be put on the shoulders of the taxpayers if we dissolved."


However, the costs of sewer and water districts in a dissolution generally are transferred to special town sewer and water districts that must be created, and they are paid in user fees, not property taxes.


No studies have been done to assess what effect it might have on taxes. Another factor in the board's disinterest in dissolving is public interest. According to the mayor, only one resident has ever shown interest in the village being taken over by the town.


"Nobody else wants the village to dissolve," Mr. Beirman said.

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