LYONS — Now what?
According to MRB Group consultant Diana Smith, the Village of Lyons is half-way through the process of dissolving itself.
In front of about 120 people gathered in the Community Center last Monday night, Oct. 28, Smith said the village Board of Trustees, at one table and listening carefully, would take back comments and questions raised and decide if anything needs to be added to the Dissolution Plan approved by referendum last year.
Mayor Corrine Kleisle said she expected the Village Board to decide within a week if changes need to be made. If so, those changes would be printed and presented to the public within 60 days. If there are no changes, the Dissolution Plan will be published as is, and the village would cease to exist as a governmental entity on Dec. 31, 2015.
But if at least 25 percent of village registered voters have another plan, they have 45 days to file a petition to force further discussion or reconsideration.
The Oct. 28 meeting was to give Lyons residents a chance to make comments or ask questions. Members of the Dissolution Committee, the town and village boards, even Wayne County Sheriff Barry Virts were on hand to answer questions.
It seemed most of the folks with something to say were from the town outside the village proper, concerned about their taxes going up 43 percent while residents in the “former” village would pay 36 percent less when all is said and done. The savings result from staff and benefits reductions and shared services, plus a sweetener from the state — a $444,000 per year incentive grant, part of the legislature’s Aid and Incentive to Municipalities (AIM) program.
Police Chief Dick Bogan, the moderator for the discussion, read the questions submitted. One card quoted Town Supervisor Brian Manktelow as saying, “The only way we can save money is to dissolve the police department.”
“The Town Board has never discussed it as an option,” responded Manktelow. “People like their police department. We will listen to what they want to do (if the village dissolves).”
Another questioner asked if the Town Board would follow the village’s plan.
“The town can throw the whole plan out the window,” Manktelow said. “Do I think we’d do that? Absolutely not.”
“Is it true town employees are forming a union?” the next question read. Manktelow confirmed that Teamster Local 118 was in the process of forming a union with the highway workers, and a union representative later confirmed it.
Another question: “Is it true Lyons has the highest village tax in the county? In the state?” Kleisle said Lyons taxes are highest in the county, but not in the state.
The dissolution process will cost about $880,000, and MRB’s Smith said some would be town-related costs; some would be paid by the village.
Another question: “How much would it cost for the county to provide police protection? Virts said it would be $120,000 per police officer, with at least five needed.
Another questioner said, “The village taxpayers will assume all the debt and the town will get all the assets. Why not sell off assets to reduce debts?” Sergei Bartishevich, a Dissolution Committee member, said the village reserves would pay for a lot of the dissolution expenses.
Then residents lined up to comment.
Denise Dzikowski was concerned that post-dissolution cuts in the police department would eliminate crossing guards. She asked the Village Board to make sure children “can get to school in a safe manner each and every day.”
“We’re not going to let kids cross the street by themselves in the morning,” Bartishevich promised.
Larry George said town residents would pay higher taxes. “Villagers get the gold mine and town residents get the shaft … maybe some democracy will enter this picture.”
“I’m here to save Lyons,” said John Murtari. “We’ve all seen downtown. Where are you going to go shopping? We’ve got to save money. We’ve got the only paid fire department in the area. Compare police forces in Wayne County. Give us some facts so we know what it (the police force) should be. Let us move forward and bring money into Lyons so more businesses will move downtown.”
“This plan should have been in effect before any votes were taken,” said John Gibbon. He said an alternative plan, which keeps the village intact but shares more services with the town, needed more consideration, and he termed Mayor Kleisle “an obstructionist.”
Jerry Crandall, a town resident, said the village’s dissolution has a “huge impact on town residents.” He said the process had created “many hard feelings … I never thought the village (dissolution) would increase our taxes. We’ve been excluded in the process and it affects all of us.” He asked people to sign petitions to challenge dissolution.
Keith Bridger warned about that $440,000 yearly funding from the state: “Do you believe for a minute they wouldn’t take that away?” He, too, liked the alternative, no-dissolution numbers, and added, “I think this community center is a valuable asset. If 300 of us put up $1,000 apiece, we can buy this facility: it’s important for our kids.”
Linda Thyarks said she liked the village’s town, but was concerned about the unfairness of raising taxes and reducing village employee benefit plans.
Ann Salerno, a village resident with town property, said she liked the village’s plan but was “really torn” and added her concern about ongoing state funding.
“The last thing I want to see is my taxes go up,” said Jim Brady, but he also believed the Town Board can do things to keep taxes down. He urged everyone to remember “it’s one Lyons.”