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Horrigan presents countywide shared services plan

Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan

Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan believes the area can thrive if efficiencies in local government are realized, and he is aiming to give information to the voters to help in this process.

Horrigan held a public hearing on a countywide shared services initiative Tuesday at the Fredonia Technology Incubator in Dunkirk. The county executive explained how Gov. Andrew Cuomo got the ball rolling on this initiative when he asked county executives to create their own shared services plans.

“Personally, I agree with it,” Horrigan remarked. “Shared services and regional solutions is something I firmly believe that Chautauqua County must do to develop and grow forward. The question, obviously, is how much,

when and where and how do you get the … community to say, ‘Good idea,’ because at the end of the day, the voters decide.”

Horrigan noted there has been momentum building for some time, despite the fact that consolidation can be a dirty and divisive subject. Typically, regional consolidations fail, with the state average being 10 percent, he pointed out. He added Chautauqua County is at 75 percent, with three dissolution petitions and four votes — two in Forestville, one in Cherry Creek and one in Sherman (the only one that failed).

Most of Horrigan’s proposals in his plan come directly from the county’s application in the state Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition, which will award $20 million in grant funding to the winner. The proposals are as follows:

2018 initiatives:

¯ Analyze the 42 fire departments across the county to see if some can consolidate into fire districts, thus alleviating funding and recruitment struggles.

¯ Form a regional water and wastewater cooperative to stabilize staffing (which is aging and lacking in qualified replacements) and save on chemicals and lab services.

¯ Have Dunkirk and Fredonia collaborate to divert sludge from the county landfill through composting and additional methane generation.

¯ Merge the towns of Gerry and Charlotte and dissolve the village of Sinclairville, while locating a central municipal facility on the Cassadaga Valley Central School grounds. This would be the first town dissolution in New York state in living memory, according to Horrigan.

¯ Dissolve the village of Cherry Creek, which will happen at the end of 2017.

2019 initiatives:

¯ Have the Jamestown Police Department’s retiring officers replaced with sheriff’s deputies, thus alleviating Jamestown’s high legacy costs associated with retirement and health care.

¯ Have the Maple Springs, Hartfield, Mayville and Dewittville fire departments work closer together and possibly merge.

¯ Merge the Portland and Brocton fire departments, with the county assisting with legal fees.

¯ House the Lakewood and Busti municipal offices under one roof, thus cutting down on unused space for both.

2020 initiatives:

¯ Have the Lakewood-Busti and Ellicott police departments pursue closer cooperation, as both chiefs are nearing retirement.

¯ House the Dunkirk and Fredonia police departments under one roof, thus alleviating space and building quality concerns for both entities and improving cooperation.

¯ Have Hanover and Silver Creek share services in a common building, thus alleviating space and maintenance concerns for both entities, especially after Forestville’s dissolution.

The shared services plan has one proposal that was not included in the county’s Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition application, and that proposal involves evaluating the number of municipal courts and seeing where consolidation can occur. That would generate savings and put less of a burden on the public defender’s and district attorney’s offices when it comes to arraignments, Horrigan said.

“Even if we are unsuccessful (in receiving the $20 million prize), we do believe there’s real opportunity through other funding streams for some of these to be able to be implemented,” Horrigan pointed out. “Some of the things we’re going to move forward with, some of the studies and looking at the fire departments, I think we’re going to have some success with those, but we really need that grant to be able to build the facilities and do what we can.”

During the public hearing, Fredonia Village Justice David Prince threw his support behind the courts initiative.

“I truly believe that with a change in times, this needs to be addressed and looked at,” he remarked. “Let’s go, let’s do what we can to improve things.”

“I think these kinds of talks and presentations open up the possibilities of many different services,” Fredonia Trustee Douglas Essek added.

Two more public hearings will be held on the countywide shared services plan: Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the county EMS Office, 2 Academy St., Mayville; and Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the CCIDA board room, 201 W. Third St., Jamestown.

Email: gfox@observertoday.com. Twitter: @gfoxnews

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