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October 12, 2013

Village's fate at stake in Tues. vote

By Joe Mahoney Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Richfield Springs Village Mayor Ronald Frohne II and former county Rep. Alex Shields have both been spending a lot of time talking to local residents about Tuesday's referendum, which proposes that the village be dissolved.

Both men see the proposal as a critically important issue for the village's more than 1,200 residents. They just happen to be on opposite sides of the argument.

If the referendum is approved,the village government would be wiped out and the town of Richfield would take over the services now provided by the village: the court, animal control, building codes inspections, record-keeping, road maintenance and governance.

In a "Dear Neighbor" letter issued on Oct. 9, Shields urged his fellow village residents to join him in backing the referendum, which was made possible after he succeeded in getting 100 of them to sign a petition calling for the vote.

"Whatever the outcome, Richfield Springs will, as before it was made a village, always will be called Richfield Springs, as will be the library, as will be the school and most of all, we will still be neighbors in this special place we call home, Richfield Springs," Shields wrote.

In an interview, Shields said the dissolution of the village would produce a savings of $227,004 for local taxpayers, much of it through the elimination of 13 positions,. If the vote passes, it would not impact the jobs of water department or sewer department workers, as they are funding through taxing districts that are separate from the village, he said.

Frohne said the village is run very efficiently and, were the referendum to be approved, the town would have to hire more workers, nullifying the savings projected by Shields.

"Our workers are not getting rich off us," the mayor said. "We have just the bare minimum of what we think we need."

He also said dissolving the village would remove local control over the community, and make government more distant for those now in the village.

Frohne also questioned the calculations that Shields has made and disseminated in order to convince voters to back the referendum.

"I don't have a great deal of confidence in his ability to do an analysis," the mayor said.

Shields said the salary information he is using came from the village itself. People on fixed incomes, he noted, are having a particularly difficult time keeping up with village taxes, noting his tax bill from the village exceeds the combined total of his town, county and school taxes.

"The ones who don't want change here tend to be in better financial condition to weather the taxes than a lot of people who are on fixed incomes," Shields said. He said he has spent about $500 of his own money in promoting the referendum.

Frohne said he is hoping for a strong turnout on Tuesday, a scenario he believes would result in the referendum being soundly defeated.

"Hopefully, nobody takes anything for granted," he said. "If it passed, it would just create chaos and force the town to take us over."