Forestville board accepts terms despite unknowns

FORESTVILLE – Although final terms are unknown, the Forestville Village Board agreed to do what the county demands in exchange for its help.

The village board previously unveiled a budget with a proposed 445 percent increase in the tax rate mostly because of two loans – one for $250,000 for a building demolition and the other for $150,000 for a waterline on Bennett State Road – coming due.

The county proposed help for the village in the form of a bridge grant for $150,000 and reimbursement of $87,344 tipping fees in exchange for 14 years of landfill credits it would otherwise be entitled to. The county Audit and Control Committee approved the assistance with the conditions that the village submit to an audit from the state comptroller’s office of the past five years’ records, be involved with a taskforce to examine the financial viability of the village and possible dissolution and also search for grant funding for a study on dissolving the village.

County Legislator George Borrello attended Tuesday’s village board meeting to explain what the county is trying do for the village.

He said the agreement is still very fluid because the state has weighed in on some of the conditions for the assistance.

“We included these conditions to make sure Forestville is not in this position again. … These make the legislators comfortable knowing that if they agree to this, they are making sure it is a one-time occurrence,” he said.

Mayor Kevin Johnson recommended the board pass a resolution to agree to the terms, despite their being undetermined, with the option to rescind the resolution if the terms are changed and become “untenable.”

Resident Gary Williams asked how the village can approve the terms without knowing what they are. Johnson responded saying that is why the resolution has the option to be rescinded.

The board unanimously approved the resolution.

One resident, who wished not to be identified, said it feels like the county is blaming the village for the debt when it was another municipal entity that ordered the building’s demolition.

“Don’t blame the village and force it to dissolve,” he said.

Borrello said the county does not have the authority to order that buildings be demolished and does not blame the village for the situation, but it does not want to see the current situation repeated.

“If you keep doing the same things then the same things will happen. You have to do something different. Even looking at the state of the village’s reserves right now, one more unexpected expense and you are right back in the same situation. I don’t think I will be able to get the legislature’s support for this again in five years,” he said.

Village property owner Randall Feinen asked if the bridge loan was only delaying the debt issue. Borrello explained the bridge loan is to help with a timing issue, where the budget needs to be approved by the end of April and the village has planned to get long-term financing before the end of the year.

Resident Michael Wojtkowiak said although dissolution has been an unpopular topic in the village he appreciates that the issue was brought up.

“Times have changed,” he said, relating the village’s financial situation to a bomb dropping.

Borrello reassured residents that the final decision to dissolve would be in the hands of the residents. Johnson agreed, saying there are eight steps involved in dissolving a village and just the study can take as much as two years.

“If the village dissolves, it will not be overnight,” he said.

Johnson said he will be attending the county legislature meeting tonight with a copy of the resolution passed at the meeting.

The village board will hold a special meeting April 29 at 7 p.m. in the village hall to adopt the budget. The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for May 13 at 7 p.m.