Clear direction is paved for shared services

OBSERVER Photo by Ann Belcher Portland Town Council members, left to right, Rick Manzella, Patty Farrell, Dan Schrantz, and Gary Miller discuss the formation of a shared service task force for the Brocton and Portland communities with Regional Solutions Commission Chairman and Chautauqua County Legislator George Borello and fellow Legislator Mark O’ Dell.

BROCTON — Leaders and residents from the village of Brocton and surrounding town of Portland took a progressive step towards increased shared services.

The Portland Town Council hosted a public meeting recently from Town Hall for those interested in learning more about the opportunities that are potential shared services, how to formally begin the process for getting those opportunities off the ground, and how they can become involved.

With the town’s most recent Comprehensive Plan calling for the town to continue seeking shared service opportunities, the council invited George Borello to the table Monday, who chairs the Regional Solutions Commission. Next to Borello was fellow legislator Mark O’Dell who represents the municipalities at the county level.

Commenting on how much has changed since the studies in the 1990s that were conducted in Brocton and Portland on shared services and potential merging, Borello stated “We can provide the information and help you traverse the complex issues that are involved with this process. As chairman of the Regional Solutions Commission, I’m happy to assist with structuring this and getting it started.”

Borello and O’Dell reflected on the successful creation of a task force in Forestville that was able to efficiently carry information out to the public, who made an informed decision to dissolve their village and be encompassed by Hanover.

“This task force consisted of about eight members, and an alternate. They had regular meetings, special meetings, meetings that were open to the public. They provided impartial information to the voters in order for them to make an informed decision. They also came up with a mission statement, which gives you something to refer back to. For instance, if you’re at a crossroads in your decision-making process, you can refer to that statement in order to move forward,” added Borello.

O’Dell noted that while county and state levels of government stand in a supportive position for shared services, he has also heard from Senator Catharine Young’s office, who has offered support as well.

Town Councilman Gary Miller offered his opinion.

“What I’m seeing if we face reality, is we’re not eliminating Brocton or Portland, they’re not going anywhere. But there’s a lot of duplication of services that translate into dollar signs. We don’t want to see tax increases in Portland, we want decreases. There are a lot of options out there, let’s see what happens. But we have to want to do it. I think we should see what we can do.”

Former Brocton Mayor Dave Hazelton pointed to the existence of obstacles in moving forward with a combination of services.

“Would the county attorney be available to assist if needed? We were told once that if we were ever to dissolve the village, we would need to find an electric expert because we would lose our allocation of electric service.”

Borello responded that the governor is in favor of shared service efforts to such an extent that “any laws prohibiting collaboration would be gotten rid of. He’s made it clear that any regulation, law, rule or obstacle that stands in the way, we are to let the government know what that is so that it can be taken care of.”

“I’ll be here through this process with you, the Department of State, the county executive’s assistant Dan Heitzenrater. The question to pose now, is ‘where do we go from here?'”

Hazelton addressed the council members and stated he would be willing to serve on the shared services committee, and was followed by Dave Travis, who volunteered to chair the committee.

Others who attended the August meeting and volunteered to serve were: Henry Link; Dave Willebrandt; Signe Rominger; Bob Patterson Sr.; Tom Webb; Mark Belcher Sr.; Jerry Boltz; Carol Horlacher; and Dale Furman. Agreeing to serve as alternates for the committee were Gary Planty; Jim Rizzo Sr.; Rick Manzella and Gary Miller.