Allows formalization of practices underway
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
Inspired by existing informal practices as well as increasing New York state demands for local government streamlining, the Putnam County Legislature last week authorized formal agreements to share highway department equipment and personnel with the Town of Philipstown and Village of Cold Spring.
The legislature took the step at its Dec. 22 Year-End Meeting in Carmel, following up on a discussion held a week earlier at a session of its Physical Services Committee. It similarly approved agreements with the county’s other municipalities Dec. 22.
Both Philipstown and Cold Spring have teamed up with the county previously, if casually, to lend equipment or share space and resources. Now legal agreements will bless such cooperation, regarded as reducing expenses for both county and local governments and preventing unwarranted duplication.
“We’ve been striving to consolidate and be more cost-effective,” a Physical Services Committee member, Legislator Ginny Nacerino, explained Dec. 15.
To permit county administrators to prepare the necessary documents, the legislature Dec. 22 passed separate resolutions identical in wording except for references to “Philipstown” or “Cold Spring” as appropriate. The Philipstown version likewise specifically mentions county storage of salt and sand and keeping vehicles and equipment at the Philipstown Highway Garage on Fishkill Road “on an as-needed basis.”
The resolutions call for “shared services” and involve reciprocal personnel and “snow-and ice-removal” activities as well as equipment, supplies, tools, machinery, facilities and parking places for vehicles. The legislators stated that county officials believe “it is in the best interests of the local taxpayers of Putnam County to establish a cooperative means … for sharing highway-related resources, from time to time … in the undertaking of public works and other municipal improvement projects, including [in] emergency situations.”
They determined that “flexibility … is necessary” in running town, village, and county governments and recognized a “critical need to utilize every means or device available to provide services in the most cost-effective manner and at the least possible cost to insure efficiency and maximum benefit to local taxpayers.” Furthermore, they declared, by “leasing, borrowing, exchanging, or lending highway-related resources,” they all “avoid the need to purchase certain highway machinery, tools and equipment” and often need not “purchase or keep a large inventory of certain extra materials and supplies” directly.
When the Physical Services Committee reviewed the concept, Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra, a committee member who represents Philipstown, told her colleagues that Philipstown Highway Superintendent Roger Chirico “has been using our [county] machinery for years and years and years. I think it’s a great way to help out.”
Legislator Kevin Wright pointed to state pressure on counties and municipalities to consolidate and the tax-related repercussions for residents of those that fail to make serious progress toward that end. “We’re not going to get state rebates next year unless [there is] a comprehensive plan for consolidation of services,” even if the county stays within the state limit on property tax increases, he noted.
“That’s a very important part of this,” observed Fred Pena, the county highway and facilities commissioner.