Sunday, November 27, 2022

Doug Frost led petition drive; calls dissolving LG Village ‘win-win’

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

Doug Frost set in motion this Tuesday’s referendum on whether to dissolve Lake George Village.

“I look at this as a win-win situation,” he says. “…If it does not pass, the Village Board will follow through on its own study of consolidation and long term savings for Village residents.”

Mr. Frost owns the Tom Tom Shop and Mayard Center in the village and formerly owned Fire and Ice bar.

A nine-year employee of the Town Code Enforcement Office, he said he previously worked for the Village and served more than 14 years on the Village Board.

Last spring Mr. Frost and fellow Village residents John Cocozza-Hill, Jennifer Hawley and Robert Mastrantoni collected 99 signatures, enough to trigger the vote by the village’s 677 registered voters.

Mr. Frost said his “catalyst” was that “The Village Board was in the process of going to do their own study on dissolution or consolidation with the Town. Then, toward the end, they decided not to do the study. I was on the side of, you do the study and put it out to the voters…Let them decide what’s in the best interest of the Village. I don’t think five Board members should decide for everyone.

Mr. Frost says, “This was never about the Village not doing its job or any dissatisfaction with what is going on in the Village, but to allow us to see the numbers and facts.”

He says, “Personally, I believe it should pass. We should be looking for the long term not short term,” Mr. Frost said.

“I think we are a stronger community if we are together….There is enormous development and growth in the Town. The Town has a huge assessed valuation that I believe will help maintain savings and the tax rate. The Village is a small area and it is already built out. We are not going to see that same growth, while expenses will continue to grow.”

Mr. Frost says, “I don’t know what will happen. I think it’s up in the air, very close. A lot of people want dissolution. A lot want to see the Village remain. I hope that they vote based on correct information. That was the whole idea of the petition and getting the study in the first place.”

Asked what he thinks of 55-year Lake George Mayor Bob Blais, Mr. Frost said, “I think the Mayor has done some wonderful things for the community. This is not about Mayor Blais.”

After the referendum was triggered, the village and town paid for The Laberge Group of Albany to do a study of the impact — benefits and drawbacks — of dissolution.

The Laberge report said taxes would decrease substantially under incentives enacted by then Governor Cuomo to encourage layers of government to streamline.

Mr. Frost says, “I do not think anyone had foreseen what it says, that we could see 29 to 33% savings. The study was eye opening for a lot of people.”

He adds, “The study shows most if not all of Village employees would transition to the town. That’s a great thing and one more positive coming out of the study.”

Mr. Frost says, “I will always think of myself as a resident of the Village of Lake George. My family has owned a business here since the 50s. I love the Village of Lake George with all my heart. It’s been my family’s home forever. My mom was on the school board for 25 years. My dad was on the Village Board, was the village assessor and Police Commissioner. I want the community to see the benefits.”

He said, “It’s not an emotional thing for me. I’m not going to be sad if it passes or it doesn’t pass. I’m looking for a win- win for my community. We were hoping something would come out from this in a positive way.”

Mayor Blais: LG Village & town well-run; ‘nothing guaranteed’ if village dissolved

Lake George Mayor Robert Blais posted this message to Village residents on the Village Website:

“The State’s Incentive Program to eliminate layers of government and provide efficiencies was originally designed to assist communities struggling with a stable tax base, insufficient funds to provide necessary services, difficulty staffing appointed and elected positions and duplicating services that existed in neighboring communities.

“None of the above is the case in the Town and Village of Lake George.

“The study indicates on page 16, ‘The Village and Town of Lake George already share significant services and already have a strong well-functioning division of labor.’

“Later, on page 57, the study states, ‘The Village has a very healthy fund balance, a number of Reserves and owns a significant amount of property and equipment.’

“Now, voters are being asked to consider the dissolution of a 120-year-old, well-functioning village in only 90 short days: actually only 30 days after receipt of a draft report!

“A petition circulated by three Town employees without the knowledge of Town Officials has forced a vote within 90 days. The busiest 90 days of our year, creating a vote held the week after our large car show and a time of year that our largest taxpayers have little or no time to consider such an important question. Two of our public hearings must be held during the Adirondack Nationals Car Show!

“Dissolution of a village with a budget of over $6,000,000 that offers the variety of services that we do, not only to Town taxpayers outside, but for millions of tourists annually is extremely complicated.

“The vote itself creates divisiveness among the community, pits neighbor against neighbor, creates rumors, assumptions and due to the short time period, much fear in the average homeowner content with the status quo.

“All this aside, the [Laberge] study predicts a savings for our Village taxpayers in the range of 27-33%. This savings, following Dissolution, comes from funds our successful government has generated over many years. But remember nothing is guaranteed to the Village taxpayers after Dissolution. Nothing!

“What is certain is that many years of unparalleled cooperation between the Town and Village will end. Shared Services that have saved taxpayers far in excess of $400,000 annually will go away. Loyal employees will be affected, job duties changed and a decrease in service is possible.

“Village taxpayers’ ownership solely of a Fire Department, four parks, the sewer plant, water system, Visitor Center, will all go to the Town.

“As Mayor of this great village for 52 years I am obviously emotional about any Dissolution but sincerely want what is best for the future of this community and its taxpayers.

“Therefore, I am recommending to the Village Board, a creative, sensible, and practical solution to consider in place of the complexity and unforeseen circumstances of Dissolution: An investment that will lower Village taxes now and continue the excellent sharing of services that exist between the Town and Village.

“I am seeking a resolution [since adopted] guaranteeing the Village Board will transfer up to $3 million from a parking meter savings account into our next year’s budget to reduce taxes by as much as 35%.[Mayor Blais told The Chronicle he expects the parking meter revenue will continue to lead to similar tax reductions in future years as well.]

“The funds were put aside only two years ago to cover unexpected costs associated with our construction of the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“Our grants exceeded expectation by over $5.4M [million], the plant has been completed on budget and we have covered the additional maintenance in our 2022-2023 budget.

“The Village has not raised taxes in ten years. Our present tax rate of $5.79 is 25¢ less than in 2013. This part of our outstanding debt will lower the rate to $3.85; a 33.5% decrease. Our Parking Meter Revenues continue to exceed our expectations and we should be able to hold our rate stable for many years to come. All of these funds would be lost in Dissolution across the entire Town.

“The resolution will also include asking the Village Board to support, subject to the approval of the Town, a detailed study of Consolidation and Annexation (also since approved), a study that may save both Village and Town taxpayers funds and one in which both Town and Village voters not only have an opportunity to vote, but have a reasonable amount of time to consider, research and gather facts to make an intelligent decision.”

Town Supervisor Dennis Dickinson also opposes dissolving the village.

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