By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — MEDINA — The actions taken by Mayor Andrew Meier in the past 17 months have been orientated towards major changes in the how the village is governed, but never at the current pace.
In his time as mayor and trustee, Meier has agitated for a dissolution of the village and other proposals aimed at reducing the taxes paid by village residents. Those slow-moving efforts have received a new momentum in the past two weeks as three milestones have arrived in rapid succession.
The tailwinds began to gust on Feb. 11, when Meier’s proposal to restructure the administration of the village’s day-to-day operations by filling a long-vacant village coordinator position was unanimously approved by the village board. Meier intends to have the full-time official in place before the 2014 village year begins in June.
Later that week, the deadline for ballot access in the March 19 village election passed without any challengers emerging to run against the Village Party’s two candidates. Barring a successful write-in campaign, the re-elections of Trustees Mark Irwin and Mark Kruzynski would ensure Meier can count on four agreeable colleagues on the village board.
Wednesday added the final push, as the New York Department of State informed the village that a long-sought grant to fund a plan outlining the implementation of a village dissolution would be announced the next day. The $50,000 awarded lays the groundwork for a potential village-wide vote on dissolution within the next two years.
Suddenly, ambitions that have simmered behind the scenes are publicly progressing. Meier said it all fits together in a push to better the return on the village’s financial investments in its government.
”There is definitely a trajectory here,” Meier said in an interview last week. “We can better deploy village resources while improving services ... this is all part of the mechanism as we try to chart a better course.”
• Coordinator a do-it-all addition
While the election and implementation plan are yet to take place, the search for a full-time coordinator has already begun.
In a job posting on the village website, viewable in full at www.tinyurl.com/villagecoordinator, the challenges of the position are clear. In return for a $70,000 to $80,000 salary, the village expects not only oversight of the village’s departments, but also budgeting, human resources, economic development and execution of the village board’s directives.
”The coordinator will address the structural challenges — declining tax bases and increasing costs,” Meier said “In that dynamic, efficiency is important. We can’t achieve that without a professional manager ... if we have one person in charge, we can spread out resources farther, increase our output and make sure our equipment and personnel are deployed with maximum efficiency.”
Meier indicated that the coordinator would play an active role in the ongoing discussions between the village and towns. The new official would keep the village board appraised of the towns budgets and further the mayor’s oft-recited points about multiple levels of government leading to extra costs for taxpayers.
”We need to clarify that phenomenon, identify areas where the village is charged two or three times for a service and to have professional voice to address complex challenges with credibility,” Meier said.
While the position will seek to address costs, the need for the position itself has been questioned early and often since its announcement, largely focused on costs. Meier said he understands criticisms, but insists that savings from the planned retirement of Village Clerk/Treasure Peggy Crowley, and a shuffle of positions within the clerk’s office will allow the new position to be added without increasing salary or headcount.
”The big question is ‘how can we afford this?,’” Meier said. “We’re going to pay through retirements.”
Meier said at least 70 other municipalities currently have a full-time administrator in a role similar to the one proposed for Medina — including Oakfield, Bergen and Brockport. The village will soon join that club; applications for the position are due March 15.
• Announcements signal power shift in talks
The momentum comes only weeks after the mayor’s efforts — and the man behind them — were visibly frustrated due to a lack of control over outside forces and a lack of assistance from outside sources.
Shared services talks hit an impasse on much-discussed measures this month, as officials from both Ridgeway and Shelby said they would not entertain a village proposal to remove village taxpayers removed from paying the costs of town snowplowing operations. The state funds for the “final step” in preparing a village dissolution had failed to materialize for months.
Meier’s comments to and about town officials exhibited a growing desperation. At a shared services meeting earlier this month, he decried the plow cost denial “repulsive.” A negative comment from a town official at the the ensuing village meeting was returned with a pointed reminder on the same subject.
But that dark period appears to have ceased that same night.
”We’ve been limited in what we can accomplish without the towns,” Meier said Wednesday, echoing his earlier comments. “They’re expressing less and less interest in real reform — it’s all about preserving the status quo.”
But as he continuing speaking, the effect of the changing dynamic was apparent.
“They need the change to come from the village,” Meier continued. “The towns will follow the village ... they’ve ceded ground to the village.”Contact reporter Jim Krencikat 798-1400, ext. 6327.