At the stroke of midnight on Saturday, Dec. 31, 1994, a new era began in Schenevus, replacing one that had dated back to the 19th century, close to 125 years. The village government was no more, and the village returned to being a hamlet within the town of Maryland.
According to “A Concise History of the Town of Maryland,” by Ashley Hotchkin, compiled in 1876, Schenevus was originally known as Jacksonboro in 1829 and Joseph Carpenter was the first postmaster. “The office was afterwards removed but it was re-established with the name of Schenevus.” The village became incorporated on April 20, 1870, and received its charter that year.
It apparently was a property tax increase of 24 percent in the village in 1991-92 that set the wheels in motion to dissolve the village government.
The Daily Star reported on Tuesday, April 7, 1992 that Schenevus village and town of Maryland leaders had appointed a committee to study the dissolution proposal and its possible impact.
“But if the village dissolves, taxes in the Town of Maryland might increase as costs are absorbed over a broader base, town and village officials agreed,” the Star reported.
Dorothy Beams, mayor of Schenevus, said that six residents had approached the village board in early March, asking for a feasibility study. The main issue was whether services in the village and town were being duplicated, and whether property taxes might decrease.
“If it’s something good for the residents, then I’m more than happy to have it,” Beams said. The village had about 525 to 550 residents at the time.
“After nearly a year of research,” the Star reported on Friday, Jan. 22, 1993, “a committee assigned to evaluate the pros and cons … is almost ready to let village residents cast their ballots.”
The committee found as a result of the proposed dissolution, village taxes would go down $20 to $25 per $1,000 of assessed property value, without any loss of services. The town’s taxes would increase by less than $5 per thousand.
A public hearing was required before a vote could be taken in March, and it was reported on Feb. 18 that about 50 village residents attended the hearing.
“There doesn’t seem to be too much opposition to it,” said Ed Snyder, chairman of the feasibility committee. Residents learned the hamlet’s name would still be Schenevus and that the post office would remain with all mailing addresses staying the same.
Not everyone was pleased. One village resident, who didn’t wish to be identified, said one of the reasons he moved to the area was because he wanted to live in a small village where officials would be easily accessible.
“It’s a nice village the way it is and I wouldn’t like to see it change,” he said.
Residents made their way to the Schenevus firehouse on Tuesday, March 16, 1993, where they voted 96 to 81 to dissolve their village government.
“It’s a shame, it really is,” Cody McKee, a former Schenevus trustee said. “When a small community loses its government, rarely is it able to keep a real identity,” he added.
The process of dissolution was reportedly a lot of paperwork, with budgets to transfer to the town and setting up a new accounting system. New water and lighting districts needed to be formed, and deeds of village property also had to be transferred to the town.
“Some things won’t change at all,” the Star said on Aug. 27, 1994. “In 1995 Chief Schenevus will still greet visitors to the hamlet. The post office will still be cancelling letters with the 12115 zip code. And the name Schenevus will continue to appear on area maps.”
The Star followed up on the dissolution a year later, and reported mixed opinions in an article dated Jan. 4, 1996.
“It doesn’t seem to have accomplished anything positive,” Cody McKee said. “Taxes are not that much lower.”
“All in all, it was a good deal,” Ed Snyder said. “I haven’t heard anyone condemn it and I would be the one to hear it.”
This weekend: A look at Oneonta’s “business beat” of 1899.
Oneonta City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/opinion/columns/.