Tupper Lake consolidation talk

Ron LaScala may be onto something, but although his aggressive style draws attention to the issue he’s pressing, it also limits the number of people he can convince.

The urge to consolidate Tupper Lake’s village and town governments seems to be blowing in the wind again these days. We have heard a lot of Tupper Lake residents agree with LaScala’s recent revival of the consolidation movement, even if they don’t agree with his propensity for slinging insults – such as, “Anybody that believes that we need two forms of government in a community the size of Tupper Lake really has the IQ of lunch meat.”

In the past, people have suggested dissolving the village, but that never made it far because the village provides far more services than the town does, including ones that most local people see as essential, such as police and fire departments, and water, sewer and electrical utilities. Police can legally be transferred to a town, but New York’s obsolete laws won’t let a town operate a fire department — and our state legislature steadfastly refuses to update that. The result is that a new fire district would have to be formed, with a board of its own. Creating a new layer of local government while erasing another doesn’t seem like much of a step toward efficiency.

These days LaScala, a village trustee, is calling to go the other way: Expand the village boundary until it is contiguous with that of the town, and combine them into one coterminous municipal government led by a single board. A few efficiencies could be gained, and it would be simpler for people to deal with.

The crux is taxes. The biggest plus — or minus, depending on your point of view, would be that the costs of that government would be more evenly spread throughout the town. To make this happen, those town residents outside the village would have a referendum on annexing into the expanded village. Would they approve it?

The power rests entirely with them.

As of now, LaScala wants the town to initiate and pay for a study of the matter, while town council members say the village should do so — a predictable impasse. But this week, both the village and town board agreed to set up a meeting with each other and the press in attendance. That’s a step forward.

The good news is that Tupper Lakers are really talking about their municipal needs and their future. We tend to favor consolidation, but such a decision would need community consensus. Positive, persistent leadership could organize that.