Trustees of one village in the Adirondacks took a step in a different direction last night, toward becoming a city. Chris Knight reports.
The village of Saranac Lake is the only community in the state that lies in two counties and in portions of three towns. Generations of elected officials have struggled to try and find ways to reduce these layers overlapping of government, with little success.
The latest attempt took a step forward at a board meeting Monday night.
Village trustees voted to accept the recommendation that the village become a city. The option was one of several that were studied over the last two years by a committee of volunteers representing the village and the towns.
Village trustee Jeff Branch says the implementation committee is going to get down to brass tacks: “tax issues, shared services and all sections of a city charter that we need to and bring those points back to the village board and they're going to accept them, ask us to change them or decline them."
Supporters say creating a city of Saranac Lake would eliminate the overlapping of town-village governments, opens up the possibility of getting new revenue and would be relatively easy to implement. All it would take is approval of a city charter by the state Legislature.
But that could be tougher than it sounds. Officials in the three towns that lie both inside and outside the village could lose part of their tax base. And Essex and Franklin county officials would likely be reluctant to support creating a city, since it could pre-empt a portion of the sales tax the counties get.
Branch admits the task is daunting. "Absolutely,” he said. “It's about negotiating with the towns, with the counties; it's going to be a long, hard process but I think a worthy one."
The towns and counties don't have a legal say in creation of a city of Saranac Lake, but their opposition could kill any chance of getting a city charter approved by the state Legislature, something that hasn't happened in New York since 1940.