Cobleskill mayor takes another look at dissolution
By Patsy Nicosia
Three years after the idea was dismissed as "speculative" and "a fire drill of the outgoing administration," the Village of Cobleskill is taking another look at dissolution.
In January 2010, a Dissolution Committee named by then-mayor Mark Nadeau dissolved itself after realizing there would be no real savings and that they'd need legal advice-and money to pay for it with-to go any further.
Mayor Mark Galasso has said since elected that he plans to push for dissolution; last Tuesday he began what he called a "series of discussions" to come up with a list of pros and cons.
"The intent is not to eliminate a single service," he said, pointing out that by law, any plan for dissolution would have to lay out any changes so voters, who would decide on it in November, would be clear of its impact.
Only village residents would be able to vote on the change.
Trustee Linda Holmes pointed to the 2009-'10 Dissolution Committee's financial roadblock and asked how the village would pay for this one.
Mayor Galasso answered that he'll "reach out and try to find some volunteers" and plans to set aside some time at each meeting for the discussion.
On the downside, Mayor Galasso said, village residents would lose "some measure of control."
On the plus side, he said, most departments would see few changes.
Combining the village and town clerk's offices, he said, would likely eliminate the equivalent of one fulltime position, and combining the codes offices, the equivalent of a part-time post.
He foresees no cuts in Buildings and Grounds-a one man department; "It doesn't matter who owns things like parks. You still have to maintain them," he said.
There would be no changes to the Recreation Commission-again because there's little to change-but the village's part-time attorney post would be eliminated.
"What would the savings be then?" asked Trustee Linda Holmes. "If it's only five percent, is it worth it?"
"That would be part of the plan," answered Mayor Galasso. "Each voter would have to decide for themselves."
There would be no changes in the water and Sewer Departments, Mayor Galasso continued; they'd just become the responsibility of the town.
That's also the case with the Police Department-something that raised the most concern.
The village has talked about expanding the boundaries of the Police Department to match those of the new Howe Caverns Water and Sewer District once they're in place-something that could allow the village to add back an officer, but unrelated to dissolution.
At Tuesday's meeting, however, Sergeant Matt Wilday said he's not sure how that would work with dissolution.
"I still don't have it in my head how it would work and I don't think that legally, it can work," he said. "It had to be a town police force or not at all."
Village Attorney Lee Hartjen said that concern is valid, asking, "Is the Police Department at risk of being eliminated by the town if people don't want to pay for it?"
Sergeant Wilday said that's his biggest fear: That responsibility for the Police Department will pass to the town and they'll eliminate it.
"This string of burglaries..." he added. "The village didn't get hit once and that's because of the Police Department."
Mayor Galasso said it all comes down to taxes.
"That's why people are moving out every day. Why businesses are going bankrupt every day. The Bull's Head. Out of business because they couldn't afford their taxes. That's why."