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Regional solutions panel attracts local leaders to its first meeting

March 31, 2016
By Jimmy McCarthy ( , Westfield Republican

Local leaders learned about a newly formed Regional Solutions Commission and the resources available for shared service initiatives and consolidations.

Mayors and town officials throughout the county as well as emergency services personnel were in attendance at the March 24 forum in Mayville.

County Executive Vince Horrigan began the first meeting by discussing the commission and regional solutions. Horrigan told attendees that the commission would assist municipalities through a shared service initiative or a possible merger. He said the commission will allow ideas to be brought forth.

Article Photos

Photo by Jimmy McCarthy
County Executive Vince Horrigan kicks off the initial meeting of the Regional Solutions Commission Thursday in Mayville. Mayors, town officials and emergency services personnel were on hand for the meeting.

"We all have reduced budgets, so we find ways to collaborate and share services," he said. "We want to form a leadership effort in regional solutions, but not tell people what to do. We want to provide an information center."

As chairman of the commission, George Borrello said an opportunity will be available for collaboration and information sharing to facilitate an initiative or address a challenge. Borrello, who was part of the dissolution in Forestville, said one of the main issues during the process was knowing where to go for answers. The Center for Government Research conducted a baseline study, giving Forestville residents information on the impacts of a dissolution.

"It sparked a lot of discussion last year and it was the missing link," Borrello said. "That study provided information so people could make an informed decision."

Borrello said the commission isn't solely about dissolution of municipal government. Borrello said the commission will provide and facilitate the necessary information to develop and implement proposals.

"A dissolution needs to play out with the support of the voters and the local municipality," Borrello said. "If we can provide information, if we can encourage steps to be taken to get that information to people, that's going to change the outcome, which I believe it did in Forestville," he said. "That's going to be a big part of what our commission's goals are going to be. Projects are going to be identified and there's going to be a myriad of opportunities."

Several agencies, including the Department of State, Center for Governmental Research and Southern Tier West were on hand to discuss their available resources. Mark Pattison, director of local government services for the Department of State, said finding ways to provide services at a low cost is hard work and isn't accomplished easily. Pattison provided attendees with information on funding opportunities, including a grant program for dissolutions and tax credits for consolidations. The Department of State funded 90 percent of the cost associated with the Forestville dissolution study.

"We're dealing with communities where the county is taking a lead role," Pattison said. "In Chemung County, the city of Elmira is facing challenges with public safety. Tompkins County is leading on police consolidation. We're all dealing with these things."

Richard Zink, executive director for Southern Tier West, said they've supplied grants to towns and villages working on shared service initiatives. The nonprofit organization serves Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties. The organization supplied 10 percent of the cost associated with Forestville's dissolution study.

The Center for Governmental Research brings a third-party source of information through its studies. Joseph Stefko, president and CEO, said they've conducted studies on over 20 projects statewide over the past three years.

"We don't enter as an advocate. Our role is to be the source of information for people to make a decision," he said.



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