Hanover and Silver Creek talk joint municipal building

Hanover Town Hall

At a time when the nation is so divided by fear and hate, it’s nice to know that local politicians are working hard to work together, even across party lines.

Town of Hanover officials and village of Silver Creek officials have buddied up on a number of programs already. They are in the final stages of executing their shared contract with the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office; the same infrastructure guru, Steve D’Angelo, is in charge of the Hanover Highway Department and the Silver Creek Streets Department; and leaders from both municipalities support or promote great local events, like the Festival of Grapes and the annual Laurel Run.

Now, they’re putting their heads together again to explore the possibility of a shared municipal building.

At a recent Hanover Town Board workshop, which Silver Creek officials attended, Hanover Councilman Wayne Ashley brought up the topic.

“We met with the village,” he began. “It’s come to everybody’s attention that we’ve outgrown the town hall, and that the village (of Silver Creek) has outgrown their village hall. (Silver Creek Trustee) Warren Kelly contacted Legislator George Borrello (R-Hanover) from the county to see if there was any monies available for joint municipal building studies or construction, and he came back to us really quick that there is a $23 million grant out there just for such purposes.”

Silver Creek Village Hall

The OBSERVER contacted Borrello, who confirmed that the New York State Department of State is offering funds through the Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition (MCEC). According to nytowns.org, the competition “invit(es) local governments to build consortiums and compete for a $20 million award. Under the program, teams of two or more local governments can submit plans demonstrating how government consolidations and innovative restructuring initiatives will yield reductions in property taxes.

“A panel selected by New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado will pick the winning consortium and plan.”

Borrello explained that the competition has rules and requirements, but that with the county acting as the lead agency, the Hanover/Silver Creek project qualifies.

“The county is the lead agency,” he said. “The lead municipality has to have a population of 50,000 or more to qualify, so the Regional Solutions Commission is working on this. We got the application in (Thursday), and it was due (Friday). Our application includes 12 proposals; it’s a large-scale, regional consolidation and efficiency plan, so the shared building for the town (of Hanover) and the village (of Silver Creek) is one of those 12 (proposals). We got letters of support from the village and the town to back up this project within the program.”

And Borrello thinks the odds are good, despite the fact that Chautauqua County will be competing with municipalities across the state to win.

“We have a very strong chance of winning this grant,” he said. “It’s a winner-take-all, $20 million prize.”

The application phase, or “pre-planning phase,” is only the first of this competition. If the county’s application is accepted into phase two, it may then be awarded funds to do an efficiency study.

“We’re supposed to know by (Thursday) if we’re accepted into phase two,” said Borrello. “We’d get up to $50,000 to develop our master plan, and part of that would be developing a plan for each of those 12 proposals moving forward.”

It wouldn’t be until after phase two that the county could get funding for a study to produce actual numbers in order to show the breakdown of costs for each proposal.

“(That would) also be an opportunity to look at other efficiencies that could be gained in the town and village,” Borrello added. “If they consolidate into one municipal facility, are there other efficiencies that could be garnered by putting everything under one roof?

Officials from the town and village noted that space restrictions aren’t the only problems with their respective buildings. Hanover Councilman Louis Pelletter noted ongoing mold problems at the town hall due to a leaky roof, and Silver Creek Mayor Nick Piccolo said the village hall has damage on its second floor, keeping the space from being useable.

Piccolo has been happy with the village’s and town’s partnership, and looks forward to other possibilities.

“We’re doing a lot of shared things together that are beneficial for us all. I think we can iron things out if we can find (an agreeable property), and if we can get money that is going to benefit both entities,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to argue like (other municipalities), because I think we have a good rapport and a good relationship. We all respect one another and what we stand for.”

Piccolo also joked about how the old Main Street school’s spot would be a perfect location, if only it weren’t for the old school sitting on it.

“I’ve been hoping for the last three years that a strong wind would come along and knock the old (Main Street) school down — it would be an ideal place to consider something like that,” he laughed.

Borrello said working together has worked out so far, and it’s also the answer for a successful future.

“If you look at things like the combined sheriff’s contract, it’s certainly great to see town and village officials working together,” he said. “Consolidation is the key to saving money for taxpayers down the road, and finding more synergies and efficiencies between municipalities with the assistance of the county.”

Piccolo agrees.

“I think this is a good, positive thing because we’re listening, we’re communicating, and it’s going to be a big change,” he said. “We’re getting a little bit of life in the village, and we know there’s more life in the village when there’s more life in the township.”