How Lyons dissolved their village

On January 1st at midnight the village of Lyons will cease to exist. This is an issue that has been widely covered since voters decided in March that dissolution was something that would benefit the community of Lyons as a whole. In recent years, communities like Seneca Falls and Macedon have both dissolved their villages on the premise of saving money. Each dissolution is different, of course, requires plenty of planning — and most-notably requires a vote from the community in question. However, the rules of dissolution are foggy. People don’t typically become engaged in the idea of dissolution until it’s nearing time for a vote. To bring dissolution to a vote there must be a plan in place. Fittingly, this is called a dissolution plan but communities who vote to dissolve are not forced to abide by that original plan. Thus it creates an interesting caveat in the dissolution rule. This caveat still concerns outgoing Lyons Village Mayor Terry Van Stean a great deal.”Unfortunately the way the dissolution law is structured in New York State, the town isn’t required to follow the dissolution plan.” This is sentiment he has reiterated over-and-over during his last several months serving the village of Lyons. In most practical ways, the village already ceases to exist. The breakdown of the village after the dissolution vote was well-documented. The police force stopped issuing tickets late in November, to the dismay of some residents. While many within village government have pointed out that for the government to cease operation on Friday at midnight — while most are celebrating the New Year is really nothing more than a formality. It was argued that the voting body in Lyons wanted a police force for the “old village” to be paid for by those residents, but as the dissolution law exists in New York State currently there isn’t any provision for that to be introduced. In short, if a village dissolves it forfeits all rights to introducing anything new within its old borders. On a fundamental level it makes sense, but in the grand scheme of things, if the voters are led to believe that there will be a choice in the matter — it complicates dissolution.This made us at FingerLakes1.com consider the process by which government could be consolidated or dissolved at the local level. Since matters like this typically involve a lot of questions being asked, and so many people still are uncertain about what “dissolution” really means we’ve compiled a list of some interesting facts regarding the dissolution process.Dissolution can be initiated by voters or a board entity. If dissolution is petitioned for by voters then it requires 10% of the registered population to sign. If dissolution is proposed by a board entity then the process can start much more quietly. For example, a dissolution study can take place a year or more before any physical vote is taken on the concept of dissolution.Board-initiated reorganization gives the appearance of greater organization — but does not always mean the process will be simpler. For example, when a board of trustees or similar organization initiates dissolution — they will have a plan prepared and readied when the concept is proposed, making it seem better organized. However, this dissolution plan holds little weight in the actual dissolution of the local entity in question. [More on this below]If a voter-initiated petition is not acted on by the local government, the dissolution can go to the Supreme Court — but otherwise a date for a referendum vote will be setup within 10 days of handing in the petition. There are public hearings, notices, and dates that should be watched carefully by residents that are both in favor of, and against dissolution. A vote on dissolution is nothing more than a vote on the act of dissolution. Whether a dissolution plan looks great, or a dissolution plan does not exist at all, voters are voting on the act of dissolution — not the details of said dissolution.This single-detail in the dissolution process is the one worth evaluating. While the dissolution process as a whole appears complicating — it really is relatively simple. Once initiated and voted on one time, there is little that stops a dissolution from happening. Oddly enough, this is one area where checks-and-balances are lacking in our system of government — to the point where bad planning for dissolution can be overlooked in the process.Those who take issue with the process of dissolution as it exists now are mainly concerned with the lack of accountability that exists. Since residents are losing the entity that is accountable to them, the omission of accountability after dissolution is troublesome at best.

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