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Village of Medina adopts draft Dissolution Plan Three municipal governments would merge if accepted
Saying it is the first step in a two-step process to merge the three municipal governments of Medina/Ridgeway/Shelby in Orleans County, members of the Village of Medina Dissolution Plan Committee April 10 adopted a draft Dissolution Plan which provides for continuation of all village services by the towns or other entities, and projects “savings which are significant and compelling,” according to Medina Mayor Andrew Meier.
Meier, who is a proponent of dissolution, said during a news conference following the unanimous adoption of the plan, that the village tax base is declining annually and the village has been looking for ways to reduce the tax rate in a meaningful way.
Dissolution is being considered as an option, he noted, as long as residents will be able to keep services and tax rates will be lowered.
“Today we have answers,” he said regarding the Dissolution Plan. “Medina has so much unrealized potential – we need to unify to fix the tax problem once and for all or we will miss the boat. That is why we forge ahead today.”
Mayor Meier, who has taken an active role in downtown and community revitalization in Medina, is an attorney and owner of Hart House Hotel, a boutique inn in the downtown business district. He completed a historic rehabilitation of the former R.H. Newell Building which houses his law office, hotel, a cafe and apartments. He has focused on initiatives aimed at tax reduction and historic preservation during this years as a member of the village board.
Last year, the village received a Local Government Citizens Reorganization Empowerment Grant in the amount of $50,000 to complete the Dissolution Plan.
Don Colquhoun, chair of the Village Dissolution Plan Committee, discussed details of the plan which he said has taken about a year to develop.
“All services would be continued after dissolution,” Colquhoun said.
According to officials, if the village government is dissolved, taxes drop inside the village by 30 percent – an average $6/$1,000 assessed valuation, or by nearly $500 per year on an $80,000 home.
All employees would transfer, no one would lose their job, Colquhoun says. The police department would become a town-wide force and the Medina Fire Department and Ambulance Service would stay as a special district. Clerks, code enforcement, public works functions would transfer to the towns.
Village debt, which Meier said is currently at $1.6 million, would stay with the former village.
The Village of Medina is evenly split between the towns of Shelby and Ridgeway. About 6,000 people reside in the village which is about three square miles. An additional 6,000 people reside in Ridgeway and Shelby outside the village.
Officials say the combined tax rate within the village is the highest in the Finger Lakes region and among the highest in the state.
In 2010-2011, the three communities studied consolidation and a committee recommended a merger of all three governments. However, Meier said the Towns of Ridgeway and Shelby balked at the recommendation and instead called for “a two-step process which would start with village dissolution and then town consolidation.”
No officials from either town attended the April 10 news conference.
If dissolution is approved, taxes in the towns of Ridgeway and Shelby would increase modestly, Colquhoun said.
In Ridgeway, taxes would increase about $3/$1,000 assessed valuation; in Shelby, taxes would increase about $0.81/$1,000.
“That assumes the entire plan is put into place … and there is no consolidation of the towns. If the towns unified, they would have access to additional state aid,” Colquhoun said.
Meier added that the additional efficiencies created by the towns merging would just about eliminate an increase in taxes outside the village.
As a means to facilitate cooperation between the three governments in the move to consolidate, OneMedina has been formed. Its Chair is Nathan Pace, an attorney and an assistant Orleans County public defender, who served as chair of the Consolidation Study Committee formed in 2010.
OneMedina is a “grassroots committee dedicated to bringing all three municipalities together under a single umbrella. Village dissolution would be the first step of a two-step process to merge municipalities,” a news release said.
During the news conference April 10, Pace noted, “we have the opportunity to do something good – it is an issue of what our future is. Medina cannot cease to exist, it doesn’t need to cease to exist.”
Pace said OneMedina welcomes anyone who would like to join and will reach out to the leaders of the two towns.
He described the village government dissolution as being the first step in a “metamorphosis of the entire community into something stronger and with staying power for years to come.”
Those working toward dissolution and consolidation say they see it as a way to merge the best of all three communities with Medina at its heart, all while making government more efficient.
Officials said a public information session on the Dissolution Plan is set for May 6. The Village Board would then hold its own public hearing and vote on the plan, Meier explained, probably in June. If approved by the Village Board, there would be a public referendum for village residents on dissolution of the village government.
“A vote could come this year,” Mayor Meier said.
If approved by voters, the process of dissolving the village government would be completed by 2017.
Meier said public engagement is the key to the dissolution/consolidation process because if dissolution is approved, implementation of the plan would be up to the town boards.
He told Suburban News/Hamlin-Clarkson Herald that voters “will be surprised by the extent of the savings. The details are now out there and people will know the facts.”
Norma Huth, a Medina resident, who lives in the Town of Ridgeway portion of the village, attended the news conference. She said right now she’s undecided regarding dissolution.
“At the public hearing we will be able to ask questions,” she said.
Photo by Kristina Gabalski