Schuyler, Yates to pursue consolidation study
SCHUYLER COUNTY––Schuyler and Yates Counties will seek grant money from the New York State Department of Local Government Efficiency for a consolidation of services study. The Schuyler Legislature passed a resolution at their regular meeting held Monday, March 11 authorizing a co-application with Yates to seek $100,000 to fund the study, with a $10,000 local share to be split evenly between the counties.
Chairman Dennis Fagan said the study will look into the potential efficiencies of providing services jointly rather than individually, “basically everything is on the table,” he added. He then explained the rationale behind the move, pointing out both counties were forced to exceed the tax cap for fiscal year 2013 and meaningful mandate relief from New York State is not occurring. “The time is right to look into this,” said Fagan, because of the similar economics and make up of the two counties. He said one of the main purposes of the study would be “looking to provide services in different ways to save money.”
The legislature was joined by Yates County Administrator Sarah Purdy and Yates legislator Bill Holgate. Purdy explained that it makes sense to consider the possibility of consolidating services because of the many similarities between the counties. The Yates Legislature passed a similar resolution earlier the same day. Schuyler Administrator Tim O’Hearn said that serious discussions between the counties has been occurring for a few months, “we need to look at services we are both providing and see if we can do this collectively.” Purdy said that there is no way to know what is ultimately possible in the way of consolidating services because, “there are a lot of logistics involved.” Neither O’Hearn nor Purdy would rule out the possibility that the counties could consider merging sometime in the future.
If the counties are not successful in their application for grant funding, they will still look to have some services shared, similar to the arrangements that Schuyler currently has with Chemung County. Purdy said that if the request is approved, a request for proposals would be prepared for the study and then the study itself would have to be completed prior to any service consolidation. She estimated that it would be fall of 2014 before any shared services would be in place.
In other business:
• After a public hearing, which heard comments both for and against eliminating the elected County Treasurer position in favor of an appointed Director of Finance, the legislature voted unanimously in favor of placing that proposition on the ballot during the next general election. Chairman Fagan said that a move to an appointed position would ensure that the county has an individual with the necessary expertise to handle the county’s financial affairs. County Attorney Geoffrey Rossi explained that no specific skills or prerequisites can be listed for an elected treasurer position. Mark Rondinaro said he was concerned that by taking the selection of the treasurer out of the hands of the electorate it would compromise the oversight role required of the position. If the proposition is defeated the legislature would not revisit the issue in the near future, said Fagan.
• The legislature passed a resolution opposing the Secure Ammunition and Enforcement (SAFE) Act of 2013, saying that the “legislation severely impacts the possession and use of firearms now employed for safe forms of recreation including, but not limited to hunting and target shooting.” The resolution further states that, “the legislation fails to offer little meaningful solutions to gun violence and places undue burdens where they don’t belong, squarely on the backs of law abiding citizens.” The legislature is requesting that the SAFE Act be set aside and annulled. Sheriff William Yessman will be speaking about the SAFE Act on March 19 at 6 p.m. at Odessa Montour High School.
The next regular meeting of the legislature is scheduled for Monday, April 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the legislative chambers.
Yates County Legislature:
YATES COUNTY—The Yates County Legislature authorized a grant application between Yates and Schuyler Counties to determine the feasibility of consolidating individual government services to serve both counties during their meeting Monday, March 11. The grant from the New York State Department of Local Government Efficiency Grant program totals $100,000 and would be used to examine different approaches to reduce the cost of local government in both counties. Each county will evenly split the 10 percent local match ($5,000 from each county) required for the grant.
According to the resolution, this measure comes as a response to large tax levy increases for the year 2013, which both counties believe to be unsustainable in years to come. The resolution said potential solutions to these issues may lie in “cooperation to deliver services, consolidation of departments, or any other measures that achieve efficiencies through collaboration.” It also said there needs to be a study of possible approaches before any service consolidation decisions are made.
“I don’t think either county started it,” County Administrator Sarah Purdy said. “It is just something that gelled over time.”
Purdy said the whole process would take a year, saying it would be toward the end of 2014 before the counties have the information they need. She said the county has to look at every possible way to minimize costs growths as possible. Purdy said it could remain an ongoing discussion even if they do not receive the grant.
Schuyler Administrator Tim O’Hearn said said during Schuyler’s Monday Legislative meeting serious discussions between the counties has occurred for a few months. Neither O’Hearn nor Purdy would rule out the possibility the counties could consider merging sometime in the future.
“We need to look at services we are both providing and see if we can do this collectively,” O’Hearn said.
In other business:
• The legislature set a public hearing date for Monday, April 8 at 1 p.m. for a local law to prevent the introduction and movement of aquatic invasive species. The law is aimed at determining which species can displace a native species, thereby altering the natural ecosystem of Keuka Lake. Legislator Daniel Banach said the law would work to protect it and all navigable bodies of water in Yates County.
However, Legislator Rick Willson voted against the proposed law, saying it would implement far too many restrictions while having little to no effect on containing the spread of an invasive species. Willson claimed the law is a “feel-good” measure and he has not seen any invasive species that has not made its way across the country anyway. Willson said an invasive species could be introduced as easily as through seeds in bird droppings and education would be a better course of action to take.
• The legislature passed a resolution supporting the Second Amendment and to repeal the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act. Legislators Donna Alexander and Rob Schwarting were the only votes against, saying there are good parts of the SAFE Act that need to be considered, and to rush this resolution through without going through the public safety committee first would be exactly like what the governor did with the SAFE Act itself.
• The legislature passed a resolution recognizing County Treasurer Bonnie Percy, retiring from her position Saturday, March 16 after 26 years of service to the county. Winona Flynn was also appointed to replace Percy effective Sunday, March 17.