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Shared services still hot topic at meetings

GLOVERSVILLE — City officials continue to look into shared services as they brought in a state official to discuss the matter with the Common Council.

On Aug. 22, Robert Roeckle from the department of state visited the council to discuss shared services options. “Anything you can do separately, you can do together,” Roeckle said.

Roeckle said the city has mentioned sharing police, fire and other emergency services.

Roeckle pointed to the Saugerties Police Department as an example of consolidating police services. He said the village dissolved its police department into the town’s department. He said this move required a permissive referendum.

“Their current budget for policing is less than the combined budgets for five years ago,” Roeckle said. “So it is something to look at.”

Roeckle said combining such departments can lead to issues with unions and personnel.

He said, however, that he could find nothing in the city’s charter prohibiting sharing services.

“It just says ‘you shall have a police department.’ ‘ You shall have a fire department.’ It doesn’t say how you have these,” Roeckle said. “State law only requires that if you have only four full-time officers, you have a police chief.”

There are a number of grant funds that are available through the state. The local government efficient grant won’t be back around for another year. That is for implementation funding of $200,000 per municipalities to help the implementation of a shared services plan.

The municipal restructuring fund is based on possible savings. If municipalities can show savings over time, 20 percent of that amount will be given. There is no matching funds for that grant.

City Attorney Anthony Casale said for the short-term, the city is unlikely to have a willing partner in shared services and asked what the city can do to try to accomplish these goals without one.

Roeckle said in order to accomplish any kind of sharing they need another municipality willing to investigate the matter with.

“We do fund studies all the time, and we do fund planning, we do not require you to implement those planning studies,” he said. “Even if someone wanted to say well lets just look at what we could possibly do, we would be happy to help you out with that.”

Roeckle said $12,500 per municipality could be given through the Local Government Efficiency grant, a 50/50 match. If the municipalities were to go forward with their plans, they would get 80 percent funding of the local match back.

“Looking at the possibility of studying, is not requiring you to move forward with implementation,” he said.

Mayor Dayton King said he wanted to make a possible partner aware that there is money available to study sharing services.

“We need a willing partner as well, and I don’t think we have one,” King said.

Earlier this year, King did speak about wanting to see the city and the city of Johnstown look into sharing services. The two cities last did a shared services plan back in 1990s. Johnstown officials have said they are not interested at this point at looking at shared services with Gloversville. They are taking part in Fulton County’s ongoing shared services committee talks.

“This is something that the governor and the state wants to see. I think we can do it safely through attrition, where no one loses their jobs, certainly,” King said.

King said if the city could hit rewind on the Smart Waters agreement, they city would considering going for some of the shared services funding. The Smart Waters agreement saw the city agree to share water services with Fulton County.

Third Ward Councilman Vincent DeSantis questioned if the funding could be used for construction or expansion of a building. Roeckle said funding has gone toward that in past, specifically in Saugerties where an existing building was expanded to accommodate the additional officers along with new vehicles and uniforms.

King said he would like to see Gloversville selected a date as far out as 2030 and begin to look at how to consolidate through attrition. King said these plans wouldn’t lead to anyone losing their jobs, but said that they could if the city doesn’t do something.

“Neither one of our cities here in Fulton County are seeing revenues like crazy,” King said.

Roeckle said that often when two departments or functions are merged through consolidation, the union contracts normally go up, since they don’t go with the lower union contract.

He said salaries may go up in the short term, but over time staff numbers are reduced through attrition.

Police Chief Marc Porter questioned Roeckle if he was aware of any city department that have done it. Roeckle said Jamestown is looking at it, but hasn’t moved forward because of issues and another in Central New York has been looking at it. In addition a very large village in Westchester County has looked at it.

Porter said he wanted to get a look at any other cities of comparable makeup that have studied shared services. Roeckle said he would have to look back to find the information needed.

Kerry Minor can be reached at kminor@leaderherald.com.

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