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Norwood mulls dissolution, creating new town


NORWOOD — Taxes took center stage at a public meeting held Tuesday night to discuss the future of the village, as residents debated whether Norwood should dissolve, create its own town or simply maintain the status quo.

The Center for Governmental Research, Rochester, presented the findings of a report that has taken months to complete, detailing Norwood’s options.

Dissolution would require the approval of a majority of Norwood’s registered voters, at which point the village would cease to exist and residents would be under the jurisdiction of the town they live in. Most of Norwood is within the town of Potsdam, with about 80 residents living in Norfolk.

Norwood provides water and sewer services to its residents, along with a fire department and a police department. The town of Potsdam does not provide any of these services, although it contracts with local fire departments to provide protection.

If the village dissolves, special service districts could be created that would allow Norwood residents to keep these services by paying for them.

Assuming service levels remain the same, Norwood residents will see their taxes drop sharply if the village dissolves, from $16.70 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $8.50. Potsdam residents outside the village will have a slight tax hike, from $3.20 per $1,000 to $4

These figures assume the town of Potsdam will have to hire more employees to provide road maintenance and other services now handled by Norwood.

The study also looked at what it would take for Norwood become its own town, separating from Potsdam and Norfolk. This route is much more complicated. Only five other villages in the state have ever created a new town, and there is no set protocol for how to do so.

“It’s really breaking new ground, this proposal,” CGR representative R. Jill Symonds said.

There are two plans for the creation of a new town. In one, the entire 13668 ZIP code would become the town of Norwood, greatly extending the village’s borders.

The other plan is more modest, extending the reach of the village only by a few streets.

Both plans would result in a tax cut for Norwood residents. The creation of a large town would drop rates from $16.70 per $1,000 to $14.30, while the small town would cut them to $11.

However, neither plan will pass without serious alterations, Mayor James H. McFaddin said. Although the laws are unclear, Norwood likely would have to hold several referendums in order to create its own town, gaining the approval of residents of Norfolk, Potsdam and the village itself.

Norwood resident Tracey H. Sloan said the protocol needs to be clearly defined before the village attempts to make this plan a reality.

“We could just be winding ourselves up like a top and sitting here and spinning,” she said.

Potsdam will not give up Norwood without a political battle. The village is worth nearly $40 million in taxable assessed value. Potsdam residents who live within the boundaries of the new town would see their taxes jump from $3.20 per $1,000 to $11.20 under the large-boundary plan, or $9.10 in the small-boundary plan.

Despite the challenges, Mr. McFaddin said, he is still eager to see Norwood attempt to create its own town. He said there are several options the village could take to make the plan more palatable to Potsdam residents, although more study is needed to figure out what these are.

“There are answers out there, but they are unknown right now, I can tell you that tonight,” he said.

Residents’ reactions were mixed during Tuesday’s meeting. Several village residents favored the creation of a new town, although they doubted it would be possible. They complained that Potsdam unfairly raised their assessments.

Others, like James A. Tyler, favored dissolution.

“We’ve got to get rid of some layers of government somehow,” he said.

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