The reaction of officials in the Orleans County towns of Ridgeway and Shelby to the Village of Medina’s dissolution plan is indicative of the resistance encountered by such radical proposals.
Town leaders are angry, and that’s putting it mildly, with Village Mayor Andrew W. Meier, who they said is spreading inaccurate information.
Ridgeway and Shelby town officials released a joint statement distributed by their New York City-based public relations firm in which the towns accused Meier of “a lack of fiscal management.”
That is a serious accusation. The two-page summary of their views on the impact of dissolving the village speaks to their displeasure at the proposal. The details, as they have researched and concluded, differ from what Meier has presented, particularly as it relates to transferring the 11 Medina police officers to Ridgeway’s payroll.
The towns have suggested the formation of a special taxing district matching the boundaries of the former village. In this way, village residents could continue to pay for police protection. Meier contends that state law doesn’t allow a police district, unlike a fire district.
The arguments go round and round. The village is small. It has a population of 6,000, and another 6,000 people live in the towns outside the village border. The border between the towns runs roughly down the middle of the village.
The village dissolution committee plans to hold a public forum May 6, which will lead to the expected presentation of its final plan to the Village Board in June. Meier has said that the measure might go on the ballot as soon as this November. But it won’t happen without argument.
Town officials have complained about the process, pointing to the dissolution committee’s meeting times – 8 a.m. on weekday mornings in an upper floor of City Hall, which is not handicapped accessible. They also contend that the committee does not take questions and that a Ridgeway council member who volunteered to serve was rejected by the village mayor, who appointed the panel.
This is a village, or at least a mayor, that is trying to do something about the huge number of governments in the state. It’s an effort the governor supports because it may relieve some of the financial pressure on taxpayers, including everything from pension obligations to increasing health insurance costs and a host of other responsibilities.
The strenuous objections from the two towns show how hard it is to make such consolidations. Better communication between the village and towns might have prevented that acrimony.
Meier should have involved town officials in the process. Getting buy-in from residents means giving them the accurate information they need, and for that everyone must be at the table.