Town and village look for ways to share resources in Lake George

LAKE GEORGE -- A committee representing town and village interests will look at the feasibility of consolidating water, sewer and highway department services in the town and village of Lake George and the extent to which the two municipalities should do so. Betty Little gave us a $25,000 grant to look at consolidation in the town and village, said Lake George Village Mayor Robert Blais. Theres a bug push on shared services and Ill be the first to admit that theres way too many layers of government. Using the grant, the town and village retained Fairweather Associates to study ways the town and village could share or consolidate services. That report was the main topic of discussion at a joint meeting of the town and village boards on Jan. 24. Fairweather presented several scenarios by which the town and village could share services ranging from mutual aid contracts for various departments to full consolidation of departments. The meeting resulted in an agreement to allow the town and village to share street and highway equipment and staff on an as needed basis without having to go to the respective boards for authorization each time the need arose, Blais said. We can share equipment or operators at any time without the red tape and approvals, Blais said. At the end of the year, the municipalities will settle up for the costs of labor and/or equipment, Blais said. The agreement would have an immediate benefit for the village, Blais said, by helping it get through the winter snow season without having to hire new plow drivers. The agreement will go into effect as soon as the town and village attorneys approve the contract. The meeting also resulted in the formation of a committee to explore other ways the two municipalities can cooperate in the ares of water and sewer and highway services. The committee will consist of the department heads of water, sewer and highway from each municipality and a citizen representative for each. Fred Austin will represent the village and Ed Pagnotta will represent the town. The committee is expected to report back to town and village leaders in three months. Complete consolidation of the respective highway departments could result in an annual savings of about $200,000 for the village and a similar amount may be possible for the town as well, officials said. Consolidation could be accomplished gradually with staff size being adjusted through attrition rather than lay-offs, Blais said. The meeting also resulted in an agreement to allow the village to store firefighting equipment at the town Public Works compound while the village constructs a new firehouse. The town and village agreed to have a joint meeting of elected officials annually in January.

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