Commitments to sharing services, reducing costs not going unnoticed

PLATTSBURGH The Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce honored local leaders in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties in what was the organizations first-ever ceremony for Shared Service Awards. Among those honored from Clinton County at the March 7 event were the town and city of Plattsburgh. The two municipalities were recognized for investing $290,250 to implement a viable sharing plan for the citys wastewater treatment facility. The collaboration will provide new uniform metering devices for the facility which will monitor and capture more accurate flow data throughout the system. The town of Chazy and the Chazy Central Rural School District were also honored for their collaborative summer swimming program. The annual partnership allows for children ages 5 to 18 to swim at the school pool, with the town paying for swimming instructors and lifeguards and the school district providing bus transportation for those participating. A partnership between the towns of Peru, Black Brook, Ausable and Jay was also recognized, which extends across the border from Clinton County into Essex County. Most recently, the four municipalities worked together to acquire a road widener for their respective highway departments. The $63,000 piece of equipment was simply the most recent accomplishment as a result of the communities working together, said town of Jay Supervisor Randall T. Douglas. When I first took office in 2004, we had to take down an old abandoned building, said Supervisor Douglas, who added the town looked to others for assistance. We actually received helped from the town of Plattsburgh and the city of Plattsburgh and together we tore that old building down. After that, the town began to examine more ways it could work cooperatively with other municipalities, he said. While the village of Lake Placid and the town of North Elba werent recognized for accomplishments theyve made as a result of sharing services, the two municipalities were recognized for taking the initial step to do so. The two western Essex County communities were commended for completing a memorandum of understanding which outlines ideas for sharing services and further collaboration. Last month, representatives from the two communities met to discuss sharing services through means such as consolidating the town and village courts and increasing a part-time village grant-writer to full-time with assistance from the town. Its not so much about necessarily cost savings when were talking about shared services, were also talking about the situation of enhancing operational efficiency and I think thats very important, said North Elba Town Supervisor Roby Politi. I know that in Lake Placid were somewhat of a model for shared services in that our community is now about we versus them, its not about the town verus the village. I think that its important to all of us municipalities work together and try to have a relationship that ends up in the best interests of the community, Supervisor Politi added. Lake Placid Mayor Jamie Rogers agreed, stating communities need to work together to compete regionally with other municipalities across the state. Once you get the commitment, you start the talking and you start the movement, said Mayor Rogers. Some smaller municipalities are entrenched in 18th century models. Were in the 21st century. We need to focus less on boundary lines and more on community functions. Though many communities are used to working in a particular fashion and doing business as usual, it is up to elected officials to proceed with initiatives that may be unpopular at first, but will ultimately benefit taxpayers in the long run, said city of Plattsburgh Mayor Donald M. Kasprzak. When we talk about these things, I will tell you, you have to have the political will to follow through, admitted Mayor Kasprzak. Some of these things arent popular. We are all being, I would hope ... driven by the fact taxpayers need some help. Sen. Elizabeth OC. Little, who was in attendance for the event, commended local government officials for their ability to work cooperatively with one another. More and more communities are being encouraged to take such action, she said, with $30 million earmarked in this years state budget alone for shared services incentives. We have to look beyond what weve always done, the senator said. It might require a change, but maybe that change is for the better. In addition to communities in Clinton and Essex counties, the towns of Bangor, Moira and Fort Covington in Franklin County were also honored. The three townships jointly acquired a $199,355 road zipper for future paving activity among the municipalities. The establishment of the chamber of commerce Shared Services Awards program stemmed from discussions among the chambers board of directors regarding the costs of doing business in New York State. Chamber government affairs committee chairman John VanNatten said the underlying issue was how to get municipalities, school districts and other entities together to share services and ultimately save taxpayers money. The decision was made to offer the awards, which consist of certificates of achievement, to encourage other municipalities and organizations to follow suit. Awards, said Mr. VanNatten, will be presented two to three times a year, with a major award winner to be selected for recognition at the chambers annual dinner in January.

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