Richfield Springs residents will head to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to dissolve the village.
The referendum has become a contentious issue on both sides.
Alexander Shields, a former Otsego County legislator, submitted a petition bearing 100 names in July calling for a referendum vote on whether the village should be dissolved and its services handled by the town of Richfield.
Since then, Richfield Springs Mayor Ronald Frohne II has disputed the numbers and information presented by Shields to the media, calling it in a telephone interview “blatantly wrong.”
The mayor has posted his numbers and information on the village website at www.villageofrichfieldsprings-ny.org, which disputes what has been advertised by Shields.
Shields stated in an advertisement the dissolution would result in a savings in excess of $200,000 to village taxpayers by eliminating duplicate services.
He said his estimate is based on factual information provided by the town and village clerks under the Freedom of Information Act.
“[Shields] argument has always been we’re going to get rid of duplicate services,” said Frohne during a telephone interview on Wednesday. “But we have the fire department, the town does not. We have a library. The town does not. We have water and sewer. The town does not. We have a cemetery. The town does not. It would be totally different if we had two fire departments or two police departments, but we don’t. The town already has to hire on an additional people for plowing. How are they going to do ours too?”
Frohne continued, “The village government has not raised the tax rate per thousand in five years, the five years I’ve been in office. In the past year, taxes went down - the tax levy and the tax rate. We’re in a great financial position.”
Frohne also said the village has “a good amount” in its “rainy day fund.” He said did not know the exact amount during a telephone interview, but said the village office would have that number available.
Frohne said when a dissolution vote was looked at in the 1980s, “it wasn’t that they just let it go, they thought it was a bad idea.”
Shields has said he takes exception to those who question his motives in bringing forth the petition. He said he is a member and past county commander of the American Legion and has been active in the community for more than 30 years. Those who are critical “have usually done less and have more interest in maintaining the status quo,” he said.
“This is a beautiful community. I love this community,” said Shields. “And people in it are kind and generous for those in need. They are also very independent. I think that’s part of the characteristic of many small communities, particularly in upstate New York. This is not about the mayor and me having differences. I’m exercising my constitutional rights.”
Page 2 of 2 - Frohne said if the referendum fails, it cannot be brought up again for another four years.
“The vote happens before you make a plan and people don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “People assume consolidation is going to save money, when that’s not always the case.”
The polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. in the Richfield Town Hall, 18 E. James St., Richfield Springs. The village clerk must receive absentee ballots by 9 p.m. on Oct. 15 in order for them to be counted.