MEDINA – The Village of Medina will invite the two towns it straddles – Shelby and Ridgeway – to discuss the details of the village’s plans to dissolve itself.
The dissolution plan, presented Monday, was created by a Village Board-appointed citizens’ committee last year. The panel completed its charge earlier this month, unanimously approving the document. Don Colquhoun, the committee chairman, and Scott Sittig of the Center for Governmental Research, which assisted the committee, said the plan has three main goals – dissolve the village government, maintain services and minimize job losses.
The key reason for bringing the towns into the process is that there are no guarantees that all recommendations in the plan would be accepted at the town level. The plan is specific to the village only. As Village Trustee Mark Kruzynski said, “Ridgeway and Shelby are partners in this, and we can’t put this up for a vote yet without buy-in from the towns.”
Fiscally, the plan’s estimated savings are $277,000, plus new state aid calculated at $541,000 split between the towns. Taxes would prospectively drop from about $20 per $1,000 in the village to approximately $14, while the rate in Ridgeway would go up from $6.71 to $9.83 and the increase in Shelby would be from $8.36 to $9.17. The volume of infrastructure and business in Ridgeway accounts for the disparity between the two towns.
Some of the most talked-about issues in the plan are the recommendations of a local development corporation to handle water services, the creation of a fire district to maintain the village’s full-time force, and the creation of a police force to benefit both towns.
Upon receiving the plan, the board opened up the floor for public comment, as roughly 50 residents were in attendance at the meeting, a far cry from the usual handful.
Comments ran the gamut from opposition, to support and simple hope that better communication with the towns would be on the horizon. The end result was the trustees unanimously agreeing to have the mayor reach out to the two towns to schedule a joint meeting among the three entities so the issue can move forward in some way.
Margueritte Sherman, a village trustee who was elected as a write-in candidate in March, questioned how government would be considered shrinking if several taxing districts were set up in the village’s stead.
Sittig explained, “Multiple layers would be created to accommodate services. A fire district would be one, the LDC for water would be another, and the districts are set up for services only.”
Sherman said with no guarantee that village services would be provided at the same level they are now if the towns were left to provide them, dissolution may not be the answer.
However, Mayor Andrew Meier countered with both agreement and a counterpoint to her argument.
“There are no guarantees,” he said. “But if we do nothing, there is simply no way the village can maintain the services it provides now and sustain them long term unless we tax our residents into oblivion.”
Meier said the village has trimmed its staffing in all departments in the past decade, and the village’s taxable valuation would have dropped by $3 million this year had Orchard Manor Nursing Home not been added to the tax rolls.
“The only guarantee I see is of diminishing services over time,” Meier said.
Nathan Pace, a local attorney who is prominent in the privately funded citizens’ group OneMedina, expressed a bit of disappointment at the locally elected officials from all three entities.
“I’m astounded that we have good leaders who haven’t sat down to shake this out,” he said, adding that the future of the community is bright with more cooperation.
Todd Bensley, Medina’s village historian, suggested that the plan be used as a springboard for renewed shared services discussions with the towns.
Ridgeway Councilman Jeff Toussaint spoke up about the state aid included in the plan, estimated at more than $500,000. He said there should be a real concern about relying on state money.
Ridgeway Town Supervisor Brian Napoli echoed his colleague, noting that a “state guarantee means nothing.”
Former village Trustee Dave Barhite read a letter signed by several other village employees and elected officials that asked for a referendum on the issue, and one of those people – Wilson Southworth – spoke up immediately afterward and asked why village residents pay for duplicate services.
“What we have now is an unsustainable business model,” Southworth said.
When the decision was finally reached to bring the towns to the table and hold off on any vote, Meier said he hoped positive steps would be taken for the good of the entire community.
The meeting with the towns will be held at a later date.