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Largest N.Y. village ever to dissolve, nears completion

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Largest N.Y. village ever to dissolve, nears completion
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SENECA COUNTY, N.Y. -- At the end of this year, four more villages will be added to that list. Three in Cattaraugus County, and one is Seneca.

Seneca Falls will once again make history as the largest village, by several thousand people, to go through the dissolution process.

Diana Smith was the first female mayor of the village where the Women's Rights Movement was born. At the stroke of midnight on January 1st, she'll be the village's last.

"It's an honor I'd hoped I'd never get," Smith said.

In March 2010, village residents voted by a margin of 86 votes to dissolve their government.
Mayor Smith called the promised 48 percent tax savings an “incredible enticement.”

After 20 months of working to transition services to the town, she believes it is unrealistic.

"The savings that were touted as part of this plan really won't be realized," said Smith. She said the numbers speak for themselves.

Seventy-three percent of the town’s residents live in the village. Ninety percent of the municipality’s infrastructure that will need to be maintained, is located there as well.

Smith said even the annual two point five to three million dollars in revenue that Seneca Meadows Landfill pays directly to the town, won't cover the expenses the town will need to pick up when dissolution is complete.

"Unfortunately the landfill revenue doesn't cover it all, and that's why for people who live outside the village, they will see their taxes go up considerably," Smith said.

Smith described Seneca Falls Town residents as the, “victims” of dissolution.

She said neither the residents, nor the county had a vote in the state sanctioned process.

According to Smith, and Village Administrator Connie Sowards, the state did not have answers to crucial dissolution questions, either.

"Unemployment insurance for instance, we called the Department of Labor and asked, ‘Who's going to pay the unemployment insurance?’ And the immediate answer was, ‘Well you are,’ and we had to explain, there is no us after the 1st of January," Smith said.

"It's just been incredible how many things will just pop up and everyone will say, ‘Wow,’ we didn't even think of that," said Sowards.

"As we move forward, different challenges will present themselves, and we’ll meet those," said Seneca Falls Town Supervisor-elect Donald Earle.

Town Supervisor will be the first elected government position Earle will serve in when he is sworn in December 31st.

Earle said he's been meeting with people involved in the dissolution process, daily.

When YNN asked Earle if he was for or against dissolution, he said, "Originally I was for dissolution. Looking back at things, if things might have been done differently, as far as getting together with shared services, it may not have been necessary, but moving ahead, it is a good thing, because we are one now. It’s no more, we and them, us and them, and that’s the way we’re going to thrive."

As a unified town of more than 9,000 residents, Earle believes Seneca Falls will have a greater voice and better representation at the county and state levels than ever before.

"I really don’t feel that we’re losing anything in this community. We still have our heritage. We’re very fortunate because the name of the village is the same as the town. When people come to this community, they’re here in Seneca Falls," said Earle.

"I think it'll be fine, but it is emotional," Sowards said.

Mayor Smith said she does plan to attend the village's annual New Year's Eve ball drop at a local restaurant.

"It’s an important community tradition, and I hope people participate. And this year, it’s going to be especially symbolic," Mayor Smith said.

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