Consolidation talk been around for a time

Members of the animal kingdom do things by instinct. They mark their own territory, pouncing when ready. They prefer strength in numbers. It always seems to come down to survival of the fittest. Sometimes, they even eat their own young.

Lately, Fulton County’s humans can’t trip over a newspaper in their yard without reading of a local government official elucidating the newfound joys of wholesale “consolidation” and/or “sharing of services.”

When I was a young reporter in the 1980s, what I was covering? Pontification by various alpha-male government-types about “consolidation” and “sharing of services.”

Fast-forward over 30 years and something looks awfully familiar here.

Local consolidation talk reached a fever pitch in the early 1990s, around the death of the leather industry. This was followed by multiple failed attempts at countywide assessing, blue-ribbon panels and dust-gathering reports assembled by volunteers on the merits of consolidation. As I see retirement over the mountain, I see the consolidation train again coming back around the track. I’ll make a bold prediction: I won’t see consolidation of municipalities in Fulton County in my lifetime.

A myriad of politicians have talked about consolidating the cities of Gloversville and Johnstown the last 30 years. Usually it comes from the city to the north, which in my estimation has had more basic problems over the years. Johnstown politicians have been chanting this for decades: “Hey, we’re doing fine. What’s our incentive to consolidate?”

I don’t know if that’s true, but Gloversville reminds me of the poor slob who keeps unsuccessfully hounding the pretty girl for a date. After awhile, he needs to get the message. It ain’t gonna happen.

Personally, I think it’s time for both cities to get their own houses in order. It’s time to be real. What’s needed is innovation, and people making a very concerted, monumental effort, if you will, to improve the job climate and quality of life in this county. Egos definitely need to be checked. No more speeches. We need ideas, ideas and some more fresh ideas. We need ideas like the Fulton County Demolition Team that was created by the late Gloversville Supervisor Anthony Buanno years ago.

Usually, this full-blown consolidation talk seems to pop up when it’s a big local election year. In re-election releases, generally, the public probably could care less. Politicians are going to solve the mess starting with the “C” word. It also comes up when you have a governor in Albany like Andrew Cuomo, who is prone to being perpetually full of himself. Trust me, he doesn’t care about consolidation. He’ll forget the word exists when he sets his sights on the presidency the next couple years.

Here’s some other positive “C” words besides consolidation maybe future county residents can embrace: civility, communication, capability, community college, commitment, compassion, courage, creative, capacity, celebrate.

The sharing of services idea has worked quite well in the area, from what I can tell. There’s always room for improvement. One thing I have noticed over the years is public safety and public works people are always sharing anyway. Police, fire, DPW, highway personnel, sewer, water, non-profits get it. They do a tremendous amount of sharing of equipment and expertise.

It doesn’t always make sexy headlines, but behind the scenes it is noticed by animals with their ears to the ground.

∫ It’s funny how words change meanings. Fulton County government has for decades referred to the airport’s freestanding building as its “restaurant building.” But it must have gone through a name change recently and nobody notified me. It was referred to in a Board of Supervisors resolution this week as the new “enterprise” building. Could that be because after years of restaurants, a new “massage therapy and wellness center” is moving in,

∫ I have a theory that public school districts never met a dollar they didn’t like to spend. I can’t really prove it. But based on pure dollars, they must be much more important educationwise than, say, Fulton-Montgomery Community College. Why else would FMCC have a $20 million operating budget for this fall while the Gloversville Enlarged School District have three times the budget at $61 million. Even the Johnstown school district has a $33 million budget — $13 million more than FMCC.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the newspaper or its editorial board.

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