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Norwood examines dissolution, township

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NORWOOD — Members of the Norwood Study Committee weighed options on whether to dissolve the village or expand it into its own town during a meeting on Wednesday.

Representatives from the Center for Governmental Research were on hand to present their preliminary findings in an extensive study weighing the village’s options. The study is funded by a $50,000 grant awarded in February to Norwood by the state Department of State.

“It was a good beginning. There was a lot of interest,” Norwood Mayor James H. McFaddin said.

First, the committee looked at the possibility of dissolving the village of Norwood.

Dissolution would likely result in lower tax rates for village residents and slightly higher tax rates for residents of the towns of Potsdam and Norfolk.

Village leaders would have to decide how to handle services that the village currently delivers that would be lost if it dissolves. The town of Potsdam does not have a police department nor does it provide leaf disposal, two services currently available to Norwood residents.

“How do we deliver the services we currently deliver today under a different organization structure?” asked Center President Kent E. Gardner.

Potsdam town officials have said they do not have the resources needed to maintain Norwood’s roads on their own, according to Mr. Gardner.

The study has not yet looked at the possibilities of sharing or consolidating services, although this information will be added soon, Mr. Gardner said.

The idea of dissolution has not been popular among residents so far, according to Mr. McFaddin.

“There is not a lot of support for that right now,” he said.

However, the village may still put the idea up to a vote if the study shows it to be feasible. Dissolution requires village residents to pass a referendum supporting it.

The other option discussed at Wednesday’s meeting was creating a new town of Norwood. This town would encompass the area currently within the town of Potsdam in the 13668 area code.

This idea was first proposed when the village of Potsdam discussed dissolution last year. Norwood residents were worried that the dissolution would raise their taxes without any increase in services, Mr. McFaddin said.

Potsdam village residents voted not to dissolve, but the issue could return in the near future, Mr. McFaddin said. Creating a new town makes sense, he added, because the village serves as a hub of local development.

“Rather than dissolve the hub, why not let the hub expand its boundaries to serve those areas more efficiently?” he asked.

Creating a new town would create a large set of potential issues. The village does not have its own court or assessor, and it would have to extend its highway, water and sewer services to the surrounding area.

The main roadblock is political. If the village chooses to pursue creating a town, it would likely face a fight from the surrounding towns. The move must pass referendums in the village of Norwood and the towns of Potsdam and Norfolk, and be approved by the state Legislature. The new town would encompass about 3,500 residents, Mr. Gardner said, residents who currently pay taxes to one of the two existing towns.

“It’s a steep hill to climb politically,” Mr. Gardner said.

Several committee members expressed doubt that the town of Potsdam would ever approve the move.

“Unless the state of New York steps up and says, ‘Yes, the people of 13668 deserve their own jurisdiction, free of the town of Potsdam,’ we’re not going anywhere,” committee member Tracey H. Sloan said.

Legally the state cannot approve the creation of a new town without the approval of both Potsdam and Norfolk, and it is unlikely that it would take special steps to do so, according to Mr. Gardner.

“It would be very unusual,” he said.

It will be some time before Norwood residents have to make a decision. The study will continue for the next several months, and the information presented so far is only part of the whole picture, Mr. McFaddin said.

The Norwood Study Committee’s next meeting will be at 5 p.m. July 2

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