MALONE — A referendum will be put before voters this fall to determine if the Village of Malone should be dissolved in favor of an enhanced town government.
The issue will be placed on the Nov. 6 general-election ballot in a decision made Tuesday during a special meeting of the Village Board.
The question will read: “Shall the Village of Malone, New York, be dissolved? Yes or No.”
The resolution calling for the referendum included an amendment where the village supports creation of a town-wide police force rather than a police district paid for by property owners within and adjacent to the existing village boundary.
But if voters decide to dissolve the village, the Town Council is not obligated to follow that recommendation to create a town-wide force.
Three Town Council members in attendance were asked to commit to an opinion before the referendum vote.
Town Supervisor Howard Maneely and Council member Louise Taylor said they are against creation of a town-wide force, and Council member Mary Scharf said she supports the idea.
The State Legislature must give permission to establish such a policing entity, and it hasn’t been
requested since a Long Island community did so in the 1920s.
About 15 people attended the special meeting and repeated many of the comments they made during previous appearances, such as calling for the Village Police Department to be retained.
The Village Board unanimously supported the referendum resolution, but three of them and Mayor Todd LePine personally oppose dissolution.
Trustee Joe Riccio said the Village Police Department and Department of Public Works are too important to lose and are direct benefits to taxpayers.
He said the estimated cost savings are not enough to justify moving forward with dissolution, but the efficiencies exposed in the study leave room for the Village Board to lower taxes by following those recommendations.
Trustee Dan Marlow said “there are a lot of risks and few rewards” in the plan and that state funding promised to the town if the village dissolves is not guaranteed to continue.
LePine read an email from Trustee Michael Maneely, who could not attend due to a family matter.
“The Village Board needs to continue to save (taxpayers’) hard-earned money,” he said, adding that the discussions held about dissolution and shared services “must be followed by actions to make the village a better place to live in.”
LePine said he is personally against dissolution, saying, “there are too many ifs,” but he did want to see the issue go before voters to decide “to put it to bed.”
Trustee Hugh Hill said he wants to see the village dissolved because high taxes and expensive departments are not sustainable and that town businesses have a competitive advantage over village businesses because they pay much less in taxes.
He said the declining tax base and infrequent new-
home construction has stagnated the village tax base, and within 20 years, the village will be bankrupt in part because of the large retirement benefits enjoyed by police officers.
LePine also quoted a letter from Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne, who has “serious concerns” about the plan’s policing options that sug
gested instead of a town-wide force or police district, the State Police would be expected to provide protection.
He said 20 percent of his caseload is generated from the village and that drug dealers trying to get a foothold in the village are thwarted by the Village Police presence.
The loss of more than 500 troopers statewide and the far-flung distances crimes committed within the county mean State Police response times would be much longer.
The dissolution plan submitted by members of the Government Efficiency Study Committee reviewed existing town and village policies, procedures and services to find places to either save money, share or consolidate staff, programs and equipment.
The entire document can be viewed at www.cgr.org/malone.
The findings included projected tax savings in the first year of about $330 for village residents with property valued at $75,000 and about $55 for town residents with a similar property.
The projected savings hinge on whether the town receives annual credit payments of about $720,000 from the state.
Also, special districts would have to be created for residences inside the current village boundaries for the costs of street lights, leaf and brush pickup and to pay off existing village debt.
Only those parcels obtaining the services would pay for them.
Email Denise A. Raymo: firstname.lastname@example.org