Orleans sees itself as statewide leader for shared services, municipal cooperation
‘The things we’re doing here are extraordinary.’ – Chuck Nesbitt, county chief administrative officer
ALBION – Municipalities in Orleans County have worked together for many years to reduce costs in providing government services, a mission that has extended with partnerships in Genesee County.
Many of the town supervisors, county legislators and village mayors met Thursday evening for a public hearing on a shared services plan that will be sent to state Department of State next week. Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2017 required the shared service plans in the 57 counties outside New York City.
In Orleans, the villages, towns and county have been sharing long before it was a Cuomo decree.
The governments in Orleans have been doing it “out of necessity” for many years, to try to bring down costs, said Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer.
“Orleans County is and has been at the forefront,” he said during Thursday’s shared service meeting at the County Administration Building. “The things we’re doing here are extraordinary.”
The local governments have moved beyond “low-hanging fruit,” he said. Courts have been consolidated, and the health departments in two counties have a shared board and staff, a first in the state.
There is county-wide garbage collection, animal control services, dispatching and many other intermunicipal services. Just recently the county’s mental health department has teamed with local school districts to have mental health staff based in schools.
“It is clear that Orleans County continues to leave no stone unturned when searching for opportunities to do gain efficiencies and savings for our taxpayers,” Nesbitt writes in a letter to the Department of State. “This has been a long term, ongoing and very effective effort of our leadership.”
As part of the latest shared service plan, the county and the 10 towns in Orleans will formalize a long-standing practice where the District Attorney’s Office prosecutes vehicle and traffic tickets at the town courts. The DA’s Office provides the service without charging the towns.
“The District Attorney’s Office prosecutes the V & T tickets on a handshake deal,” Nesbitt said during Thursday’s meeting.
The county will continue to fund the service, but wants a formal agreement with signatures from the town officials.
Some counties bill towns to prosecute the vehicle and traffic tickets. If Orleans charged the towns, Nesbitt said it would be a bill for about $165,000 ($3.85 multiplied by 42,883 residents).
That savings for the towns will be noted in the shared services plan to be submitted to the state.
The county has taken the lead in a plan for providing water and sewer services for the county. A consultant has completed the first draft for a study that will look at water plants, transmission lines, pump stations, storage tanks and other infrastructure, as well as the personnel to run the systems.
The county and villages also studied law enforcement services, including the possibility for a county-wide agency with no village police departments. That didn’t get any traction from the villages.
Nesbitt, in his letter to the Department of State, listed the following shared service successes:
• Nationally recognized cross jurisdictional shared services in public health Orleans and Genesee Counties
• First in New York State joint Board of Health, Orleans County and Genesee County
• Founding member of 14 county Behavioral Health network and numerous community partners, Integrity Partners for Behavioral Health
• The New York State Leader in Justice Court Consolidation
• Niagara Orleans Regional Alliance (NORA), joint advocacy for regionally significant issues such as rural broadband, Plan 2014 – lake levels and regional shallow draft harbor dredging
• Countywide solid waste and recycling program
• Countywide 9-1-1, Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP)
• Countywide Self-Insurance program for Worker’s Compensation
• Countywide Town/County shared services and mutual aid agreements for highway services
• Countywide Town/County snow and ice removal agreements
• Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming Workforce Investment Board
• Town and county level shared services in real property assessment including three coordinated assessment programs and contracted county assessment
• County and Town level – Centralized real property database services and Pictometry Imaging contract
• County level inter-municipal agreement for tax mapping, Orleans County and Genesee County
• Countywide animal control services
• School-based social services caseworkers
• School-based mental health satellite clinic offices
• County Level – Shared Crisis Services Hotline, Orleans County and Genesee County contract with Niagara County
• Multi-Agency Land Bank, Niagara Orleans Regional Land Improvement Corporation, Orleans County, Niagara County, City of Niagara Falls, City of Lockport, City of North Tonawanda
• Cooperative Mental Health Continuing Day Treatment, Orleans County and Genesee County
• Town and County level cooperative Property and Casualty Insurance purchasing – NYMIR
• Town and County level cooperative energy purchasing MEGA and NYMEP
• County level cooperative health insurance procurement the Alliance of Western New York
• County level shared Youth Bureau – Orleans County, Genesee County and the City of Batavia
• Stop DWI education inter-municipal agreement with Genesee County Youth Bureau
• County and several towns cooperate to provide a countywide E-Waste Program
“I would put this list against anyone else in the state,” Nesbitt said at Thursday’s meeting. “This is no longer low-hanging fruit. This is the real deal.”