Tonawanda News

Local News

January 16, 2013

Niagara explores shared highway services

Tonawanda News — LOCKPORT — Niagara County legislative leaders on Tuesday announced creation of a special Committee on Governmental Shared Services and Consolidation, which will examine ways the county, its towns and villages can work together to cut costs.

The ad hoc committee, created by the Legislature’s public works committee, will be chaired by John Syracuse, R-Newfane.

The committee will look primarily at ways the county and municipalities can work together to cut costs of and/or improve highway-related services such as plowing, road maintenance and mowing, Syracuse said.

The gist is to identify ways to downsize county government while ensuring services are maintained, said newly appointed Public Works Committee Chairman Paul Wojtaszek, R-North Tonawanda.

The shared services committee “has some broad latitude to examine ways we can cut the size of government and protect our county taxpayers, while working with towns and cities to ensure they are best positioned to provide services our residents expect,” he said.

The county, its towns, villages and cities already have multiple highway-related service-sharing agreements in place. Most towns’ highway departments plow some county roads within their boundaries, for pay, and the municipalities loan each other heavy equipment, such as trucks, pavers and rollers.

The legislature is going to start looking again at the design and financing of a central public works campus, Syracuse said, and any deals the county can strike with local municipalities surely would influence the plans.

Ideally the shared services panel will consist of five to seven members, including a few town supervisors and highway superintendents as well as someone from the Niagara USA Chamber of Commerce, Wojtaszek said.

A business representative “can provide outside perspective,” he said. “Hopefully their business acumen can help us improve our model.”

The county has examined service-sharing arrangements in the past, most recently about five years ago when administrators surveyed other counties to see how they worked with smaller municipalities. Nothing ever came of that study, Wojtaszek conceded.

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