Medina Village Board cries foul over mailer from 2 towns

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 March 2014 at 12:00 am

Ridgeway supervisor says town is gauging public sentiment

MEDINA – Town officials from Shelby and Ridgeway on Friday sent a mailer to residents in the village of Medina and the two towns, offering to set the record straight about the village’s dissolution.

The letter matched one from December, which was published on the Orleans Hub and in other local media. (Click here to see it.)

Village Board members question why the two towns would send the letter a few days before the village election, especially when the letter was first published nearly three months ago.

“The timing is overtly political, which is troubling for a taxpayer-funded mailer,” said Andrew Meier, the village mayor.

Brian Napoli, the Ridgeway town supervisor, said Ridgeway and Shelby officials “wanted to get some facts out” about the dissolution, which he said is a concern of many residents in the community.

The timing of the letter wasn’t intended to influence the village election, which is on Tuesday, Napoli said.

“It’s when we were able to put it together,” he said getting the mailer to residents.

The two towns also took out an ad on Orleans Hub, advertising a hotline for people to share their concerns and questions about the dissolution. Napoli faulted the Village Board for not putting out more information about the dissolution.

“We’re gauging public sentiment,” he said.

Three incumbents – Meier for mayor, and trustees Patricia Crowley and David Barhite – appeared to be unopposed for two-year terms until Mike Sidari and Marguerite Sherman announced a write-in campaign for trustees last week.

The two write-in candidates sent out a flyer on Friday with instructions about filling out a write-in ballot.

The five-member Village Board – Meier, Barhite, Crowley, Mark Kruzynski and Mark Irwin – put out a press release on Saturday in response to the mailer from the towns.

“The letter contains many inaccuracies and omissions, and we wish to clarify,” the board said.

Here is the full news release from the Village Board:

First, some background: “Dissolution” is a legal process by which village government is wound up and its functions transferred to the towns or other entities. Dissolution does not impact our Post Office addresses, which would remain “Medina, New York, 14103,” nor the school, which would remain the Medina Central School District. “Medina” would remain a community with a place on the map due to its population concentration.

The Village began investigating the possibility of Dissolution after the Towns declined the Village’s numerous requests to pursue a 3-way municipal consolidation. Last summer, the Village Board appointed an independent committee to prepare a Dissolution Plan. Members are Don Colquhoun, Charlie Slack, Andrew Meier, Cindy Robinson, Mark Irwin and Thurston Dale.

The committee is working with the Center for Governmental Research (CGR), project consultant, to gather the data and propose a plan so the Village Board and residents can make an informed decision on how to proceed. Meetings have been open to the public and well attended.

Although the committee has already made many decisions, this process is not yet complete, nor is the tax impact known. The draft plan should be ready for public dissemination next month. Once the draft is complete, several public hearings will be held on the plan before it is presented to the Village Board. Then, the Village Board would determine whether or not to put the plan to a public referendum.

In preparing the plan, the committee decided that the final plan should:

1. Keep as many services in place as possible – such as fire, ambulance service, and police;

2. Minimize the impact of a dissolution on village employees;

3. Be implemented to the maximum extent possible by the Village Board, not the Town Boards; and

4. Require as few approvals of the State Legislature as possible.

As has been reported widely in local media, the committee has already recommend the retention of a paid police department, retention of a paid professional fire department and ambulance service, retention of local control over water and sewer infrastructure, and pay-down of village debt. Most other functions transfer to the Towns by law. While the cost and tax impacts of these recommendations will be fully known next month, CGR has projected that the plan would benefit our municipal budgets by about $1 million annually.

The Town’s letter contains several inaccurate and/or incomplete statements, as follows:

1. Police Department – An option not contemplated by the letter, and endorsed by the committee, is the creation of a town-wide police force, which would maintain local control over policing. Village police personnel would transfer to the new department, and the Towns would be responsible to create it. A special district for police was not recommended.

2. Fire and Ambulance Service – The committee recommends the creation of a Fire District to continue this service. Formation of the District and appointment of initial fire commissioners would be undertaken prior to dissolution by the Village Board, not the Town Boards. The Fire District would then carry on the paid fire and ambulance service, much as it works today.

3. Water/Sewer Service – The option selected by the committee was not mentioned in the Town’s letter: continuation of the service through a Local Development Corporation. The Village Board would form the corporation and transfer its water and sewer assets into the corporation prior to dissolution, which would continue to operate the water and sewer system after dissolution seamlessly. No action from the Town Boards or the State Legislature would be required.

4. Timing – the letter states that there would be only 18 months after a dissolution vote, if approved, before the village dissolves. This is not set in stone. The dissolution committee and Village Board can select any time frame for dissolution, which could be several years. Our Board would opt for a longer window that provides the Towns sufficient lead time to complete an orderly transition.

As the plan is finally released, we urge all residents to consider the entire plan, not just unrelated pieces. We also invite all Town and Village residents to attend the upcoming public hearings to learn about all options considered, which options were recommended, and what the impact would be on taxpayers and employees. Only then can any of us make an informed decision about our community’s future.