SARANAC LAKE - Over the past 16 months, the Saranac Lake Area Government Restructuring Committee has examined options for streamlining local government in and around the village of Saranac Lake.
As the project comes to a close, the committee is holding a public meeting to present the project's results and recommendations and to answer questions about the study's findings. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16, at the Harrietstown Town Hall, according to a news release from the village.
In 2009, after receiving a grant through the New York Department of State's Shared Municipal Services Incentive Program, the town of Harrietstown and the village of Saranac Lake formed an advisory committee to select a consultant to study restructuring options and their impact on area residents.
In May 2009, the committee selected the team of Fairweather Consulting, based in New Paltz, and the Government Law Center at Albany Law School to complete the project.
As it began working with the consultants, representatives from Harrietstown and Saranac Lake realized that the committee should be expanded to include representatives from the towns of St. Armand and North Elba. Since that time, the committee has met roughly once a month to identify, define, evaluate and compare a wide range of options for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of local government in the Saranac Lake area, including a co-terminous town/village, village dissolution, becoming a city, shared services, and others.
During the summer of 2010, the committee held a meeting to discuss the preliminary results of its work with members of the town boards from Harrietstown, North Elba and St Armand, as well as the Saranac Lake village board. The release says input from these officials helped the committee to prepare its final report and recommendations, which will be presented at Tuesday's meeting.
The committee's preliminary recommendation - to establish a new city with the same boundaries as the current village of Saranac Lake - drew criticism, along with limited support, when it was presented earlier this year, the release states. That criticism has been considered carefully by the Government Restructuring Committee, according to Harrietstown Supervisor Larry Miller, a committee member.
"The Harrietstown board has concerns about how a city would impact our budget, but I recognize that a city is the best option overall, when you consider the broader community," Miller said in the release. "Now we just have to figure out how to do it in a way that's fair to town taxpayers."
"Our primary goal as a committee has been to find permanent ways to change our complex governmental structure in order to reduce the burden on taxpayers," village trustee and committee member Jeff Branch said in the release. "After a review of all of the options and supporting data for each, it was clear to the committee that creation of a city is the best option for the greater Saranac Lake community. I look forward to working with the village board, our neighboring towns, and our state representatives to implement this recommendation."
At the public meeting, Fairweather Consulting will present a summary of the study process and findings, as well as how the proposed city is expected to impact tax rates in the village and the surrounding towns. A question and answer period will provide members of the public an opportunity to ask questions and provide their input. Following the meeting, the Government Restructuring Committee will conclude its work and submit its final report to the towns and the village.
More information, including the project's final report, is posted online at saranaclakeny.ning.com.