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Forestville is at least willing to explore peeling away one layer of government

A task force in the Village of Forestville is exploring economic advantages and disadvantages of dissolving the village. It marks the beginning of an arduous but practical process for a financially struggling municipality with a microscopic population of 697.

The Silver Creek mayor and two trustees attended the task force’s first session and found out there could be financial benefits – cost savings and tax credits – if both the villages of Silver Creek (population 2,699) and Forestville were to consider consolidation with the Town of Hanover (population 7,127).

Change won’t come easy. It may not come at all for a while, even if to the detriment of those left to pay the bills. There will always be those keen on having their own police and fire departments, school districts, highway departments and any number of other services, no matter how small the community.

The task group was formed by Chautauqua County and has County Legislator George Borrello, R-Silver Creek, as chairman. It will attempt to provide answers to a number of questions, including the availability of tax credits for property owners, additional state funding and cost savings through consolidations.

This exploration is a side result of a $150,000 loan the county gave the village last year to offset large deficits and loans that were being called in by a local bank. The village agreed to the formation of the Government Efficiency Task Force and oversight of its fiscal practices, as The News reported.

The committee also will study consolidation of services.

But when it comes to the big step of dissolution, the members should be prepared for factions vehemently opposed to such radical change. These naysayers expend tremendous effort in killing any fiscally sensible dissolution/merger deal.

That’s what happened a couple of years ago when another task force looked at dissolution, at the urging of the mayor at the time, Linda Aures. Forestville residents packed, and interrupted, meetings, carrying on and name-calling at the task force and public officials.

More recently, the mayor of Medina, population 6,000, set off on an unsuccessful effort to dissolve the village. The suggestion met intense opposition from leaders of Ridgeway and Shelby, the two Orleans County towns that share the village, and ultimately failed.

A few villages have dissolved, including Pike in Wyoming County and Limestone, Randolph, East Randolph and Perrysburg in Cattaraugus County. But in 2010, voters in Williamsville, Sloan, Farnham, Lakewood, Cuba and Brockport overwhelmingly defeated dissolution attempts.

Some residents in the Village of Wilson, population roughly 1,300, began questioning their village’s reason for existing as taxes continue to rise. Their support for dissolution bumped up against the expected “unenthusiasm” of those hewing to the status quo.

The spotty track record should not deter individuals who rightly see the benefits of long-term savings and the strength in consolidating. It is at least a hopeful sign that villages continue to examine the question of dissolution and planning for a stronger future. Eventually, things will change. It is inevitable.