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Residents vote on future of the Village of Bridgewater

By ANNA MEILER

VILLAGE OF BRIDGEWATER, N.Y. (WKTV) -- Residents in the Village of Bridgewater are voting right now on whether to keep their village, or let it dissolve into part of the township.

Village Mayor Gary Comstock has been encouraging residents to vote in favor of dissolution. By Tuesday night, if residents agree, they'll take the nearly 200-year-old village off the map.

Of the 249 registered voters in the village, only 29 voted as of 6 p.m. For for one long-time resident, this is a particularly difficult decision.

Reginald Holmes' father was the first African American mayor in New York State. Now it's in his former home Reginald must vote whether to dissolve the Village of Bridgewater where his father made history.

"I think one way and feel another way, you know what I mean, because of what the village meant to my father. But you also have to think of the modern times and what's good for the taxpayers," said Holmes.

Comstock says dissolving the village is best for taxpayers. Gov. Cuomo has been pushing for the state's 10,000 plus governments to consolidate and is offering a tax credit as incentive. The tax credit will defray some of the costs the town will incur by taking over services the village currently provides. Comstock says the tax credit will lower taxes for everyone.

One of the village trustees, John Stevens, hopes voters choose dissolution.

"Basically it's partly financial problems. We're having a terrible time staying under that 2 percent tax cap. Matter of fact, we voted a time or two to go over. We can't get people to run for office, the mayor is considerably younger, but the other gentlemen and myself are at an advanced age. We just don't want to be doing this forever," said Stevens.

The village has lost about 20 percent of its population over the past 10 years, meaning there are less people to help run it. Mayor Comstock says after 20 years he's ready to hang his hat, but can't find anyone to take over.

For Holmes, the possibility of saying goodbye to the nearly 200-year-old village tears at his heart, but he knows first-hand why it's hard to find someone to take over the mayor's responsibilities.

"I would hate to see it dissolve, but I kind of feel that outcome is going to come and if it does, I'm okay with that too," said Holmes.

If residents do vote in favor of dissolution the village will officially become part of the town in Jan. 2015. If the village and town remain separate government bodies, they won't be able to consider the option of dissolution for another four years.

Voting closes at 9 p.m. Tuesday. Check back with WKTV for results at 10 and 11.

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