By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — The concept of sharing services to reduce the cost of local government on taxpayers was an effort that bore some fruit in 2012, with many more opportunities discussed for future consideration.
In Medina, the village, towns, school and county approved long-sought agreement to share water/sewer services and tax revenue for large-scale business development projects on the edge of the village. The agreement is considered by business development officials and local officials as a key requirement to attract businesses to the area — and it removes competition and contentiousness that hampered development.
“(Before the agreement) it threatened the recruitment of business projects,” Medina Mayor Andrew Meier said. “This way, the village will receive the benefits of the services it’s providing and the towns won’t lose the revenues they would in an annexation. It’s a good compromise that expedites development.”
The agreement had been discussed for more than 25 years, but never as seriously as it was this year. That was a common activity in a year where all levels of government looked to reduce manageable costs as expenses not set locally continued to increase.
“We took the attitude that we were going to keeping working until we had it right,” Ridgeway Supervisor Brian Napoli said of meetings that includes village, town and county officials.
Officials from village and town governments also began to meet monthly to discuss the proposals made by a community committee last year. Those discussions have created a dialogue that will be needed if village residents hop on the dissolution bandwagon driven by Meier and the village board, but Medina is waiting on a state-grant to fund a study of what would happen if the village was absorbed by Ridgeway and Shelby.
At the county level, the Orleans County Legislature partnered with their colleagues to the west on an alliance that would seek to promote shared tourism, agricultural and economic development and provide a larger voice on issues like lakeshore protection. Legislators said the partnership could expand to sharing the costs of some programs in future years.
”The taxpayers call out for less government,” Legislator Lynne Johnson, a member of the NORA working group, said at the alliance’s creation. “This is a step in the right direction.”
Orleans County’s towns came together to fund the costs of an aerial map update for assessors and emergency management and an effort that would seek to attract high-speed internet services to rural areas. That issue is one that has a shared interest in Niagara County; Napoli said that members of NORA will meet with State Sen. George Maziarz next month to explore grant opportunities for the project.
Perhaps the largest show of shared services came this fall, when the County Legislature and it’s partners in Genesee County agreed to combine the administrator of their public health departments. Orleans County Public Health Director Paul Pettit and two other officials are now shared between Albion and Batavia.
”This is an unique, exciting opportunity that will serve as an example ... as we look for economies of scale,” Legislature Chairman David Callard said in September. “We can improve services and reduce costs.”
This summer, Medina and the Medina Central School District partnered, using grant funds, to bring a school resource officer back on campus. The voters in the towns of Yates, Ridgeway and Shelby approved sharing court jurisdiction, although each town will continue to elect their own judge.
While the larger decisions — votes to merge municipalities and or sharing services on a wider scale — have not yet been made, all of the agreements made in 2012 chipped away at an ossified system that will not survive without local governments acting as one.Contact reporter Jim Krencik at 798-1400, ext. 6327.