LOCKPORT – One of the motivations for Niagara County’s push for a renewed commitment for sharing public works services with towns is the hope of saving millions of dollars on a new Public Works Department headquarters.
Legislator John Syracuse, R-Newfane, said that the $33 million estimated cost of the proposed Junction Road complex could be reduced if the towns would take over many county highway-related functions.
“Perhaps we don’t have to look at buying fleets and putting a roof over them,” Syracuse said. “The Legislature as a whole is uncomfortable with the cost of the Public Works facility.” He also pointed out the reaction when County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz gave lawmakers the $33 million figure last year.
“I think that was sticker shock for the Legislature,” he said.
Glatz said the sharing should provide savings.
“With this idea going forward, it might not be quite half that,” he said.
The officials made their comments following meeting Thursday of the ad hoc shared services committee, which Syracuse heads.
Scott Sittig, associate director of the Center for Governmental Research, made a presentation about his organization’s background in studying shared service plans.
“It was primarily a meet-and-greet: ‘Based on what you said, here’s what we can do to help,’ ” Sittig said.
He said no proposal or cost was offered to the committee because the panel hasn’t decided what it wants analyzed yet.
Glatz said he supports the idea of an independent study, but first he wants the county to apply for the state’s Local Government Efficiency Grants to help pay for it.
If they are received, the county likely would issue a request for proposals for a study.
Sittig said most localities “have found the state is very willing to support feasibility studies.”
He said he contacted Syracuse after reading a newspaper article about the county’s shared services commitment.
The Center for Governmental Research is a not-for-profit organization, founded in Rochester in 1915 with a bequest from George Eastman, the founder of Eastman Kodak.
Syracuse said the center has worked on numerous shared services efforts all over the state, including a recent consolidation of 911 emergency phone service in Cattaraugus County. The shared services effort has focused so far on snowplowing, even though the towns already plow more mileage on county-owned roads than the county Highway Department itself.
Syracuse said he plans to attend upcoming meetings of the county’s town supervisors and highway superintendents to gauge interest in sharing road responsibilities, including plowing and pavement maintenance, with the county.
“We’re not looking to mandate snowplowing on anyone,” Syracuse said.
Supervisors Joseph A. Jastrzemski of Wilson and W. Ross Annable of Hartland are members of the committee, as is Town of Lockport Highway Superintendent David J. Miller.