By Jim Krencik
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal —
The village received a $50,000 Citizen Reorganization Empowerment Grant Thursday that will be used to create a plan for village dissolution, Mayor Andrew Meier confirmed.
The grant, awarded by the New York Department of State, provides financial assistance to local governments to plan for and implement municipal restructuring pursuant to the The New NY Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act.
Meier said the grant, which will be matched by around $5,000 in village funding, will be used to complete a plan detailing what would happen to village personnel, assets, services and debts if residents approve a proposal to dissolve the village.
It follows a feasibility study conducted in 2010-11 that produced recommendations for potential municipal action.
"This grant will allow the village to take the next step towards implementation of the consolidation committee's recommendations, and the final plan will be put to public vote of village residents," Meier said. "This plan will say what will happen if the village dissolves ... it's the final step."
Meier said the study is focused only on village dissolution, but considerations will be made of a potential merger of the towns of Ridgeway and Shelby.
Both towns contain nearly half of the village's population, but village services and assets are spread between the two towns. For example, the village's water tower is in Shelby, but the waste water treatment plant is in Ridgeway.
The plan is expected to take a least a year to complete. It will be presented to the Village Board for approval and, if approved, the matter of dissolution would be put to referendum.
Meier said that vote could come either in the 2015 Village Election or in a special election at some point in 2014. Final action would be at the discretion of the two towns, as the village government cedes decision-making power by dissolving.
The Medina Village Board had applied for state funding for the implementation in September. The wait has complicated consolidation discussions between the three municipalities, with town officials noting the village's plan is needed to determine several potential issues.
"We've been ready to start," Meier said. "The towns were asked to join (in the planning process) but didn't join."
The CREG program is part of Governor Cuomo’s continuing efforts to provide taxpayer relief through innovative analysis of governmental functions and services. The program awarded $275,000 for eight projects Thursday, including six in the the Town of Hyde Park and one in the Village of Lyons.
“Reorganization of local government can provide taxpayers with the opportunity to receive property tax relief through the consolidation of municipal services,” said New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales. “These grants are consistent with Governor Cuomo’s message to help New York communities provide high-quality services while reducing costs and taxes.”
General Municipal Law 17-A establishes the procedure for residents to petition their local government to vote on consolidation and dissolution. CREG grants assist local governments in meeting the requirements of this statute.