By HOWARD BALABAN firstname.lastname@example.org
Medina Journal-Register — Tonight’s shared services meeting of the Towns of Ridgeway and Shelby and the Village of Medina is at 7 p.m. at the offices on Salt Works Road. Once again, leadership from the three communities will discuss sharing services in the best way possible for the people of the area. Friday, the Journal-Register ran a story on how the supervisors in the towns viewed the services. Today is part two, and it features village leadership opinion.
With Western New York winters normally dumping plenty of snow on the area, snow plowing is a costly budget item in all three municipalities. However, as it currently stands, Mayor Andrew Meier said the amount of money taxpayers spend on snow plowing is “fundamentally inequitable.”
He explained, “(The village) approached the towns and requested an exemption. Why should a village resident have to pay for the plowing of the town roads outside the village?”
The exemption was only one solution to the plowing costs that was discussed, but if it were to move forward, village residents could see their tax rates drop by nearly a dollar.
“Over a year, that is real money,” Meier said.
Instead of an exemption, the discussion with the towns moved toward having take over snow plowing completely, thereby handling the roads in the town and in the village.
However, cost estimates for that to happen have come in rather high, and as of the last shared services meeting snow plowing talks were at a standstill because of those numbers. The estimates included costs for the towns to acquire the equipment necessary to plow village streets, and it is equipment the village already possesses.
Meier said there could be savings through an agreement with the village to use that equipment, or perhaps an exemption could be back on the table.
“I’m sure we could work something out,” he said.
There are three municipalities, three water administrators, and three water billing systems.
On the surface, Meier said combining them makes perfect sense. The question, though, is how?
“We haven’t gotten too far with this,” he said. “There are software differences and we’re all maintaining separate systems.”
Merging the water system among the three entities is something Meier said he “definitely” supports, but he noted that it would be very hard to do.
“This is an example of where shared services seems to have its limits,” he said. If done on a larger scale, there could be significant savings in local budgets and improved water function, and not just through billing.
“We would need one joint water department to make it work best and make the most sense,” he said. “Billing is just the tip of the iceberg.”
The towns currently employ a shared code enforcement officer who also does work for the Town of Yates. That officer has been offered to the village for a few hours a week.
Meier said the time available was not conducive to village needs.
“He only had four hours to give us, and that’s not what we need,” he said. The village’s denser concentration of buildings means more safety inspections are necessary. By using the shared code enforcement officer, the village would be decreasing its code enforcement hours by a drastic amount.
“It would cost us less money, but he’d be working less, too,” Meier said. “It would not be an efficient result.”
The Medina Police Department employs about a dozen full-time officers. Those officers maintain a visible presence in the community and, through mutual aid, assist the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department in cases outside the village limits.
“People in the village are not the only ones receiving police protection,” Meier said.
Still, people in the village pay taxes and a vary large portion of those taxes pay for the police department. How could that cost go down?
Like the town supervisors, Meier agreed that a countywide police department is an idea with merit and is “worth exploring.”
“I don’t want to have to cut staff to save money,” he said. A countywide force, with substations in Albion, Medina, and Holley, could theoretically work but only after a plethora of details were worked out, Meier noted. If it worked, it could provide a major savings.
The Medina Fire Department also employs roughly a dozen full-time firefighters. There is also an on-call roster with “plenty” of names.
Meier said he would not be worried should any part of local government consolidate because he has never heard of a firefighter worrying about where a fire is located.
“The study we had conducted said that we should maintain the fire districts and continue with mutual aid,” Meier said. Should talk of dissolving the village move forward, Meier said he doubted fire department response times and practices would not change among the Shelby, Ridgeway, or Medina companies.
“They don’t worry about where people are now,” he said. “If there’s a fire, they respond.”
As for how the department is funded, Meier said he “would expect” that residents in designated fire districts would pay for their respective department. Those in the town could still have a volunteer company.