In many respects New York Mills seems like a place that time forgot -- in a good way. It's a compact village of under 3500 residents where most places are within walking distance, people are friendly, there is a nice grocery store (Hapanowicz Market - with fantastic sausages made on the premises), Santa Claus rides through every neighborhood on a red firetruck during the holidays, and the schools have their own district. Most people know their neighbors, and if they don't, there are plenty of opportunities to meet them over the summer at the Tuesday night concerts at Pulaski Park.
The BEST of New York Mills will be on display this weekend at the annual Bell Festival with a parade, entertainment, food, and fireworks.
New York Mills is, indeed, a place apart . . . but can it continue?. . . Two stories this week raise some long standing concerns.
Mills residents are proud of their school system. Somehow the little village manages to keep it going . . . However, the school taxes are among the highest in a region where all school taxes are too high. . . . and this is in a village where average family incomes are below average in a region that is below average. If residents want to maintain the separate existence of their school system, they have to insist that things be done to bring down school taxes - - - otherwise the district may wind up being merged with an adjoining one to keep people from being taxed out of their homes.
An opportunity to do something about school taxes was passed up this week. With very little fanfare, much less exploring options, the NYM school board promoted one of its own administrators to be superintendent to replace outgoing Supt. Langone. This would have been the ideal time to try going without this position. Simply put, a school district as tiny as the Mills does not need a superintendent -- and, indeed, it is my understanding that the district (when it had more students) did without one for many years.
Another troubling story this week was that a group of residents felt compelled to bring suit against the village to enforce its own laws! People like living in small villages because they believe they have more control over their own environment --- that their government will respond to their needs better than some larger form of jurisdiction.
Well . . . the Mills has just demonstrated that a village does not necessarily respond to or protect its people any more than a Town or a County. Why bother having a village government when the residents have to spend their own money to ensure that the village's laws are enforced?
So this weekend while whirling on the polka floor, downing pierogis or pizza frittas or shortcakes, or eying the fireworks, ponder this:
Being small has its advantages . . . but unless leaders work to preserve those advantages, the reasons for New York Mills' separate existence will disappear.