LAKE PLACID - Local leaders disagree about dissolving the village of Lake Placid, an idea mentioned in a comprehensive plan draft that they haven't yet voted to approve.
Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall said dissolution is a very emotional issue for some villagers who feel they would be "giving away" Lake Placid to the town of North Elba. The same might also be true for some North Elbans who may prefer to keep the current name, although many townspeople self-identify with Lake Placid.
"In the short term, looking forward, I can't say it's a likely event," Randall said.
North Elba town Supervisor Roby Politi agreed, although he is in favor of dissolution.
"Personally I think it's inevitable and makes sense," Politi said. "But I don't think there is probably support right now. ... I've always felt there is not a need for two governments."
Randall is in favor of sharing more services with the town instead of dissolving the village.
When both leaders were asked about any major drawbacks for the community if dissolution occurred, they had very different answers.
Randall said the biggest issue is the many unknowns that exist about how village departments and services would fit into a bigger town government.
Politi said he didn't think there would be any major drawbacks if it happened, saying it could be worked out.
"Keeseville just dissolved," Politi said. "Ticonderoga dissolved a few years ago. They had no problems."
If dissolution of the village were to occur, it would need to be passed by a voter referendum. The village and town board have approved making the Community Development Board, chaired by Dean Dietrich, making it an official committee of both governments.
The town of Lake Placid
Randall, some board members and other village residents are concerned whether Lake Placid would keep its name and maintain its rich history. Randall said if dissolution were ever to occur, the new name should be the town of Lake Placid.
"If there is ever a time we do it, we need to preserve the legacy Lake Placid created," Randall said. "It's very special."
Trustee Jason Leon also said the name should remain Lake Placid if the village is dissolved, but added some residents might not like "village" changing to "town."
Politi pointed out that a town's existence is required by law, but a village is optional.
The 9,000-person town encompasses the 2,500-person village of Lake Placid plus its surrounding area including Ray Brook.
Can an agreement be made?
Leon is in favor of dissolution if the village and town can come to an agreement on certain things.
"I would be in full support of the municipalities combining if the residents of the village of Lake Placid received a fair deal," he said.
Leon said one of the reasons dissolution hasn't happened sooner is the village's debt.
"One of my thoughts as to why the two municipalities have had trouble agreeing on an issue this big has to do with the reticence of the town board wanting to take on existing village debt incurred through capital projects such as the sewer plant and others."
Town board member Bob Miller and Politi both said village debt and the police departments were not a big drawback for dissolution. Miller said the main concern he has is how to merge pay scales between town and village employees.
"Town and village employees are definitely paid differently," Miller said.
Miller and Leon disagree on the best way to push for dissolution.
"The only point I disagreed with Jason (at the comprehensive plan meeting) is the community has to go to the board," Miller said. "If the village board agrees that's the right direction the community wants to go in, they have to do their homework and show what dissolution will look like."
"I sincerely disagree; it's not entirely up to the village board," Leon said.
Politi said ultimately his opinion on dissolution doesn't count because it's a village decision.
"I don't have a say it's a village thing," Politi said. "I think the reason it hasn't happened is because there isn't support on the (village) board for it to happen."
"Even if the village board was the champion of dissolution, it would still be put to a vote, a village referendum," Randall said.
Greg Dennin of North Elba is in favor of dissolution, saying in the long run there will be savings.
"You're getting rid of so many duplications on so many levels," Dennin said. "So in the long run you'll have savings. I think that's common sense. ... You need one lawyer, treasurer, you don't need a town court clerk and a village court clerk."
Dennin said the inefficiency of the two boards working together was on full display during the comprehensive plan meeting.
"The proof is in the pudding, now you have two boards and they both have to study it and get together," Dennin said. "To me, its like 'Wow.' You have an example there of the inefficiency in moving this board forward."