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Consolidation study prompts comments

SCHUYLER, YATES COUNTIES--As the Steering Committee for Exploration and Oversight of Collaboration Opportunities between Yates and Schuyler Counties continues to meet, some officials have differing thoughts about available consolidation options. The preliminary reports were prepared by the Center for Governmental Research (CGR), which was funded by a $50,000 state grant to conduct the study. Following last week's meeting, Yates County Legislative Chairman Tim Dennis said he has not seen enough in the reports to consider a merging of the two counties without more information.
"Both counties should continue to explore sharing or consolidating as vacancies or opportunities arise," Dennis said. "Without considerable more information exploring consolidation of capital assets, there is not enough here to drive the merger concept."
Meanwhile, Schuyler County Administrator Tim O'Hearn said it is too soon to say a potential county merger is not a proper option, adding the data seen so far has mostly focused on personnel and shared services.
"It is premature to conclude that a merger is not practical," O'Hearn said. "The steering committee is reviewing preliminary data and providing feedback to ensure accuracy and thoroughness. Data to date has compared personnel costs between counties and sharing of services versus outright consolidation."
Dennis said his comments are "strictly my thoughts and do not necessarily reflect those of the entire task force." He said there were not specific reasons givenin the report for why a merger is not practical, adding there are a lot of logistical points that would take considerable legal expertise and time to work out. Dennis said while his thoughts point against the possibility of a merger, it has not yet been removed as an option.
"This has not been ruled out by the group," Dennis said. "Nothing has been taken off the table at this time. [...] The next step is for the individual members of the task force to forward questions or comments to CGR. There will be public forums held discussing the reports and options early next year."
O'Hearn said the committee will continue to work assessing the different opportunities presented by the preliminary data.
"As we move forward, I would predict any collaboration will be incremental and subject to further evaluation," O'Hearn said. "There are a number of potential opportunities between the two counties that will need to be further evaluated, but I think the study has provided a framework to objectively evaluate and make decisions from."
Dennis said the draft service and financial overview showed the counties are similar in demographics, economies and organization. He said the draft governance report also emphasizes the similarities in how lean various departments and functions are in the two counties.
Dennis said "almost all potential savings are modest as they really are identified in the sharing or consolidation of management level positions." He said the possibility of a combined public safety facility for to corrections and dispatch is "a prime opportunity to explore," for both counties. However, Dennis added there would need to be "considerable state aid and support for this to happen."

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