Consolidation law passes first hurdle

Legislator Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan, is sponsoring a local law granting county officials the authority to assist municipal restructuring.

MAYVILLE — A local law granting county officials the authority to assist municipal restructuring cleared the first hurdle recently.

The bill, geared to providing funding once a local government successfully dissolves or consolidates, was approved unanimously by legislators on the Administrative Services Committee. Funding would go to support a village that dissolves, for example, in order to maintain a specific program or cover unexpected maintenance fees that otherwise would be incurred by the merged entity.

The local law sponsored by legislator Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan, would go along with the efforts of New York state to assist and incentivize consolidation and government restructuring to ultimately reduce property taxes.

County funding could be provided in the form of grants, loans or in-kind services, according to language within the law. Funding could go to assist municipalities that recently voted to dissolve, like Cherry Creek.

“This resolution provides the framework for us to provide funds (to municipalities),” Niebel said. “In order to actually provide the financial assistance, we would have to have resolutions later on that would actually specify a dollar amount. It would partner with what’s already being done (at the state level).”

State funds were put forth last year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo for a Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition. Six groups that submitted plans were recently chosen by a panel to move to phase two of competition. The group of Chautauqua County and 23 coapplicants are one of the finalists.

Legislator Lisa Vanstrom, R-West Ellicott, said Niebel’s proposal encourages local municipalities to take a deeper look at cost-sharing projects. Along with Vanstrom, legislators Paul Whitford, D-Jamestown, and Christine Starks, D-Fredonia, signed onto the bill as cosponsors.

With committee approval, the local law will go before the full County Legislature for consideration at the March 22 meeting.

In other matters, committee members approved a local law to modify the salary range of a physician to reflect current salaries in the marketplace. The current range for the position is $50,902 to $101,803. With the full legislature’s approval next week, the salary range would be $90,000 to $205,000.

Pat Brinkman, mental hygiene director, told legislators the Mental Hygiene Department operates chemical dependency clinics. Brinkman said they’re required to have a medical director.

In the past, Brinkman said they utilized a psychiatrist from the mental health side to provide supervision and oversee area clinics. She said that’s not an ideal situation, and they’re in a position to hire a physician who holds a specialty in chemical dependency.

“Medication-assisted treatment is really the wave of the future in substance abuse,” Brinkman said. “This individual is on the cutting-edge of that to keep us moving forward in prescribing medications and so forth.”

Comments on this article may be sent to editorial@observertoday.com


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