Efficiency efforts boost municipal rankings

OBSERVER Photo by Jo Ward State Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas, County Executive George Borrello and Pomfret Supervisor Don Steger celebrated the North County Water District in September.

Not all tax problems begin in the New York state capital of Albany. Most begin right in your back yard.

When communities refuse to work together, that costs property owners more money. Consider, for instance, police coverage in the village of Fredonia. Counting the municipality’s own department, there are three others that are patrolling that area — the New York State Police, University Police and the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department. If an event gets out of control, the Dunkirk Police also assist.

This is not a criticism of the departments’ ability to work together, but why are five separate departments needed to serve a population of 25,000 residents?

It is definitely something local elected leaders are taking a more serious look at since populations continue to decline as costs keep rising. Thus, the time has come for the annual municipal report card.

Each year, this corner grades entities based on the elected leaders’ efforts to reduce costs to their constituents — not through reductions in positions, but rather in working with their neighbors for greater efficiencies.

Those municipalities that continue to believe they can do it best on their own are misguided — and it reflects in their grade.

Here is this year’s breakdown, with last year’s rating in parenthesis:

≤ Arkwright — After more than a decade of work by Supervisor Frederic “Nick” Norton, the wind turbines are a reality. Some property owners are cashing in, while other residents are moving out. Grade: C (C+).

≤ Brocton — Sleepy village is making smart decisions. It’s part of the water district and continues to work well with its partner in the town of Portland. Grade: B+ (B+).

≤ Cassadaga — A prime candidate for dissolution into the town of Stockton, but that does not seem likely in the near future. Village officials biggest dilemma for the year: how to handle the delicate issue of the Red House, which gives the impression of not being friendly to business. Grade: C- (C).

¯ Dayton (town) — Fiscal woes may be improving. We salute new leadership from Supervisor Angie Mardino-Miller. Grade: C

¯ Dunkirk (city) — Little being done to address Central Avenue exodus and the shutting of the NRG plant in the city, which means less budget revenue in the future. Still impressed with planning and work on waterfront. Will there be a race for mayor next year despite solid strides by incumbent Wilfred Rosas? Grade: B- (B).

¯ Dunkirk (town) — On board with the water district and sharing a highway supervisor with Sheridan. Go to the head of the class. Grade: A- (A-).

≤ Evans — Fiscally challenged town wrongly shut down proposal to consider merging police with Erie County Sheriff’s Department after a petition was presented with 700 signatures. That is a shame. Grade: D (C-).

¯ Fredonia — Since last year there has been some major housecleaning in regard to department head positions. We see that as an improvement for a municipality that consistently seems uninterested in working with other entities. Won $2.5 million in funding from state. That deserves applause. Grade: C (D).

¯ Gowanda — Mayor David Smith’s upbeat attitude bodes well for this village, which has a friendly downtown. Grade: B (B-).

¯ Hanover — Town on solid ground, but seems to lack leader. Current Supervisor Todd Johnson is far too quiet as there is strong potential for town, village of Silver Creek to work closer together. B- (B+).

¯ Pomfret — Don Steger, however, has shown major leadership in making the North County Water District happen. Town would likely be open to working closer with Fredonia, but we all know how stubborn they can be in Village Hall. B- (B-).

≤ Portland — Where would the town be without Supervisor Dan Schrantz? He’s dedicated, soft spoken, full of knowledge and open to any suggestion that offers the possibility of savings and efficiency. He also was a key cog to the water district becoming reality. Grade: B+ (B+)

¯ Ripley — Bordering Pennsylvania, this town faces a number of challenges including one of them it refuses to address. It continues to keep Michael J. Bolender on as its attorney. Bolender took $347,465 in that post over four years. How do board members and residents allow that to happen? D (D)

¯ Sheridan — Solar panel issue puts heat on Town Board, otherwise entity is fully involved with regional efforts. Grade: C+ (C-)

¯ Silver Creek – Latest law on lights appears to be poor vision. When Land Bank demolished Old Revere Inn, village officials still had issues. Overall, board seems to be complaining more than leading. Grade: C- (C+).

≤ Stockton — Off the radar on just about every issue, especially regionalism. Grade: C (C)

≤ Villenova — Town will have some of the tallest wind turbines in the country. That means money will come in for property owners and town, but at what cost? Grade: C- (C)

≤ Westfield (town) — Would be nice to see a greater interest from this entity in Chadwick Bay. Grade: C- (C).

≤ Westfield (village) — There’s a possible new beginning for the Welch building, thanks to New York state. Grade: C (C).

Overall, the grade for the 19 municipalities comes out to almost a C+. That is more than fair for northern Chautauqua County — and an improvement from our first report card in 2012 when the combined grade was barely a C-. In other words, progress and relationships take time.

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.