With a steady stream of voters on Tuesday in Lyons, and a few voting machine snafus, voters, in the end, chose to continue with the Dissolution Plan for the Village. The votes was 474 Yes, and 309 No.
Nearly 800 Village voters appeared at the Lyons VFW. Having previously voted to Dissolve the Village in an election held in November of 2012, voters were asked to decide if the Dissolution Plan should continue.
This Tuesday’s Special Election ballot simply asked: Shall the elector-initiated dissolution plan take effect?
Even, with 78 absentee ballots still to be counted, and 9 ballots to be-hand counted, the outstanding votes could not override the outcome of Tuesday’s balloting.
A total of over 1200 voters showed up for the first vote in 2012. At that time, 619 voted to dissolve the Village of Lyons, and 585 said no. It was, however, a Presidential election year, and many voters were already at the polling sites to cast their votes.
So, what happens now?
Lyons Town Supervisor Brian Manketelow stated that he would not start the momentum with “guns blazing”. “We want to be respectful of the Dissolution Committee’s plan. The people who did all the work deserve to be heard. We will take baby steps and use the plan as a starting point,” he said.
“We need to digest all of this. It just happened,” Manketlow acknowledged on Wednesday morning.
He indicated that the Governor’s office had called that morning (Wednesday) to offer any assistance. The Supervisor told the governor’s aide that the Town is working hard on consolidations, but is stuck with bad infractures, unfunded state mandates and a Tax Cap that make it very difficult for municipalities. He asked the State to “ante up” with funds to help the town progress forward.
Manktelow indicated that he had not yet spoken to Mayor VanSteen, but planned to sit down with him soon. “There are still some tough feelings all around, and we may need to just let everything settle down and move carefully and mindfully. The dissolution will not be final until December 31, 2015,” said Brian.
Mayor Terry Vansteen was similarly careful. “We were obviously disappointed with the vote. Everyone knows my feelings. My real concerns now are two-fold. The morale and well being of my employees. It has been particularly brutal on them with the uncertainty, explained VanSteen,
“Our plan now is to work on “going out of business”. I have angst and concern for the people of the Town of Lyons. They had no say in the decision and it affects them negatively. The decision is a travesty for them.”
Vansteen spoke of concern for all village employees also. “This long discussion has reflected on them. The village is not bad or evil. Our staff and trustees are the most answerable of all government agencies. They all do a good job. They are hard working, dedicated and tireless individuals who serve the citizens. It is unknown if some will be hired by the town. There is a lot of uncertainly.
“The voters were promised savings, and that is now up to someone else to deliver that savings,” said the Mayor.
“This year we had to operate as if we were still going to be a village. We set up a one year budget for 2014-2015. We had to be business-as-usual. We could not do any long range planning. We had to have a narrower vision.”
Several items still have to be handled by the Village as it goes forward to dissolution. They must work to move the Fire Department from a Department to a District. “We want it to be a smooth transition,” Terry noted.
The Village of Lyons also has to work on some loose ends with a previously funded project in the works for the summer on the Canal Trail. The work completing the trail from the west end of Newark to the Village of Lyons must be completed so the grant can be closed out.
Both the Mayor and Supervisor indicated that they must now hire consultants to aid them through the process of dissolution. The State will fund the process, but an RFP (request for proposals) must be made to find a consultants to do this. Manktelow also wanted to reach out to Seneca Falls, who has been through a dissolution – although each village and their services are unique. Assets have to be transferred, and property. There are many layers.
“You can’t just wait until October of 2015 and begin the process. Many transitions will occur starting this year,” VanSteen explained. He indicated that Sewer and Water can probably be transitioned first, as their budget are separate and not part of the village budget, by law.
“We will also have a decision to make on what to do with unappropriated fund balances paid by the village taxpayers. We need to find the best way to use that to their benefit, as it was their money collected for emergency use,” said VanSteen.
“My long range focus now has changed. I am in the business of shutting down the business of the village,” said the man who will become the last Mayor of the Village of Lyons.