Second dissolution petition submitted

Julie Sherwood GateHouse Media

Former Mayor Jon Bagley has submitted a second petition calling for a vote on dissolving the village.

Bagley said the petition contains 107 signatures, or 22 more than the 85 needed to force a referendum. He said it also clears up a technicality the village used to justify rejecting the first petition in January.

Village Clerk Joanne Burley has until March 5 to sign off on the petition submitted last Thursday. If approved, the Village Board must set a date for a referendum — and residents could vote on whether to dissolve the village this summer.

At its Feb. 6 meeting, the Village Board hosted consultants to talk about dissolution, which has become a major source of tension in the tiny village of fewer than 670 residents. A number of people asked questions of MRB Group’s Director Diana Smith and Project Manager Connie Sowards, who had worked on the dissolution of the villages of Seneca Falls and Lyons. Smith and Sowards talked about the pros and cons of dissolving, and how the process affects communities.

“It is not a simple story, not a simple discussion,” said Smith.

The consultants talked about the importance of educating residents about the process and recognizing that the subject of dissolving a village is always divisive. They said that, practically speaking, it comes down to comparing budgets and costs and remembering that the outcome derived on paper is really an “assumption,” as once a village is dissolved the town — or in this case, towns, as Rushville is half in Gorham and half in Potter — ultimately takes over.

Bagley and other advocates of dissolution believe the move would save village residents in taxes and streamline operations. Those against dissolving say they are skeptical about cost savings and fear losing village identity. Some say Bagley is reacting to losing last year’s election for mayor to John Sawers, which Bagley denies.

Before submitting the first petition, Bagley met with engineers and talked with town supervisors from Gorham and Potter, who Bagley said are open to the idea. Rushville has no ambulance service, police department, or village justice. Gorham Town Supervisor Fred Lightfoote said last week his town already provides certain services for the village, which includes assessment services and sharing of some equipment.

But on a decision of whether to dissolve, “It is entirely up to the residents of the village,” Lightfoote said. “I am neutral on this — and the Town Board is too.”