FORESTVILLE – Petitions are currently being circulated in Forestville asking that officials investigate the possibility of dissolving the village government.
Chautauqua County Legislator George Borrello, R-Silver Creek, who represents the area, said there already are about 100 names on the petition and more are being sought. “Even the mayor has signed the petition,” he said.
He emphasized that Mayor Kevin Johnson has been opposed to dissolution but agreed to sign the request in hopes of helping the village receive state funding for a comprehensive study on the potential benefits or costs of dissolution.
The village boundaries are one-square mile and the current population is about 600 residents. The village was incorporated in 1848 and is part of the town of Hanover in northern Chautauqua County.
The Forestville Government Task Force, headed by Borrello, was formed after the village had serious financial problems in 2014. A $250,000 debt from the emergency demolition of a building and other loans were in danger of default.
A large tax increase was proposed until the county government offered the village a loan of $150,000 to help relieve the financial burden. The initial payment on the loan was made by village officials this year.
County Executive Vincent Horrigan assigned Borrello to form a committee to research the issues and review the village’s finances. The committee has met three times in public and has heard from representatives of the Department of State and Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development.
Borrello said the petition will help with financing the cost of a study. He said that 90 percent of the cost of a basic study – estimated at $15,000 – could be covered by the state and that Southern Tier West could help with the remaining 10 percent. The funding is available through state government efficiency programs.
He said he thought the study was an absolute necessity for the process. “I don’t want people voting on speculation and fear,” he said. “Even if they dissolve the village government, people need to understand there will always be a ‘Forestville.’ ”
He added, “I want to see an informed vote on the potential dissolution of village government.”
A valid petition presented to the village clerk forces the municipality to have a public vote on the issue, Borrello said. He said at least 88 valid signatures are required on a petition to move to the election process.
Signatures will be gathered until Aug. 7 when the plan is to present the paperwork to the village clerk. The clerk then has 10 days to certify that there are the minimum number of signatures and then a request would be made for a ballot. “A proper petition compels the village of Forestville officials to set a date for a vote,” Borrello said.
He said the vote would potentially be done on Nov. 3 along with the national election.
He committee will meet again on Aug. 18, Borrello said. He said that assuming the petition is valid, the group would be talking about ways to educate and communicate the information in the study to village residents.