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SHUT DOWN: Lisbon Residents Overwhelmingly Vote Against Merger

As far as Lisbon residents are concerned, merger with Sussex isn't going to happen any time soon.

The Town of Lisbon has spoken, and there will with the Village of Sussex any time soon.

During Tuesday’s primary election, Lisbon residents had a special question on the back of their ballots reading, "If the terms of the consolidation were reasonable, would you be 'for' or 'against' the consolidation of Lisbon and Sussex into a new municipality?"

Lisbon spoke loud and clear, and the answer is, “against.” Almost 80 percent of residents who made it to the polls voted against the consolidation, totaling just less than 2,300 votes. About 600 residents voted in favor of the merger.

Although this is a nonbinding referendum, the Lisbon Town Board is taking the vote seriously. Now that residents have overwhelmingly spoken out against the consolidation effort both in person and at the polls, they wouldn’t explore a merger any further.

The news is a defeat for officials like Town Supervisor Joe Osterman who said he was interested in, at the very least, exploring the opportunity further. Other proponents of the merger included Town Chairman Matthew Gehrke, County Executive Dan Vrakas and County Sheriff Dan Trawicki.

"I am very comfortable with the outcome, and now I am eager to get back to business as usual for the first time in a while."

However, although he spoke in favor of looking into the new municipality, Osterman wrote in the comments below that he is "comfortable" with the vote. 

"I do not see this as a defeat, as stated in the article, but rather as a diffinative direction for the future of Lisbon," Osterman wrote. "I was very much hoping that the vote would come back with a good voter turn out, and either very strong for or against the consolidation. The worst thing that could have happened would have been an evenly split vote.

"The community is very much united in saying that we want to stay the way we are," Osterman continued. "Had the vote come back in favor of looking into a merger, I would have tried my best with the rest of the board to see if we could have made it work. I am very comfortable with the outcome, and now I am eager to get back to business as usual for the first time in a while. Thank you to all who voted and attended the meetings."

Osterman and the other Lisbon town supervisors will now have to regroup and decide how to maintain village-like services while maintaining a low tax rate and shrinking tax base. One of the solutions calls for Lisbon to reapply to become a Village, a process it failed to accomplish in the past. 

Editor's Note: This article was updated at 9:27 a.m. on Wednesday with comments from Osterman. 

Flytyer August 16, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Arnold, I respect what you say, but at the risk of being a cynic I have never thought that any politician has anyone's interests in mind except their's. My favorite definition of people involved in politics is from John Gierach (flyfishing author and environmentalist) " A politician is a person who argues both sides so he is assured of being on the winning side". The one thing that I do cherish between a Town and a Village is that I actually have a say on budgets by my vote, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it is one of the last places that I can actually have direct participation if I choose to ?
Luke August 16, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Bill, In a previous article, one of the Village officials was reported verbatim saying that the Town should consider the merger because of future increases in the cost of services. That was the "argument" to which I was referring.
M C August 17, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Having lived in the area for only seven years, I find it difficult to understand some of the attitudes between the two communities. From what I have read Lisbon is facing some serious difficulties down the road. It seems appropriate to me that they would explore merging with Sussex, especially given the entirely odd layout of Lisbon on all sides of Sussex. The vote was only to explore it further; seems the sensible thing to do to me.
garden August 19, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Pete, I am a newer resident of the Town of Lisbon, about 10 years or so. I voted against the possible merger for one reason, and one reason only: DEBT. Our two communities are about equal in size (10,000 residents or so), yet Sussex DEBT is twice that of the Town of Lisbon. I will be in favor of merger discussion, as I believe we ALL will see a reduction in our taxes, but, ONLY after the Sussex DEBT is equal to that of Lisbon. Why would I want to take-on past Sussex DEBT?
Arnold Jung August 20, 2012 at 04:25 PM
You are correct that there are a lot of misinformed individuals in town and you are right that if a consolidation could have happened Sussex and Lisbon in their current forms would cease to exist. As far as the debt, our town board could have required a separate management structure in a combined budget to ensure there was equity between the communities in the paying of past debt. There could have been a requirement to expand the villages current zoning to include new zoning areas that mirror our current zoning. Stipulations could have been entered that zoning only changes when development is about to occur for that particular property. From what I understand that is how the village handles agricultural development now. In response to the mutual aid issue you seem to imply that a combined government and fire department would completely abandon the residents of the town. A new government would be required to protect all citizens town or village equally. I see the towns fire pumpers and the villages fire engines working together seamlessly all the time, how would this not continue to work with a combined government. A new government I hope would keep our pumper trucks and accompanying equipment to ensure those areas without municipal water would be safe from fire. All this could have been negotiated instead selfish attitudes will put our town in a corner that we will not be able to recover from without massive tax increases.

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