The look into shared services in the town and village of Whitehall shows that as far as the highway departments are concerned, it is already happening.
Carol Greenough, a member of the shared services committee that was set up between the town and village of Whitehall, reported to members of the Whitehall village board that the two highway departments were able to share men or machines 80 percent of the time.
“This is not the be-all, end all report,” said Greenough. “But through the discussions that we have had so far, there have been more shared services between the town and village than anyone had thought.”
Greenough said that there will be more meetings of the shared services committee, and that her goal would be an agreement between the two highway departments regarding the sharing of equipment and manpower.
“Ultimately, I would like to see, once we have done everything that needs to be done, that we have a written agreement between the town and village,” said Greenough.
At the first meeting between town and village officials, a plan was put in place to contact the state concerning what needed to be done to look into a feasibility study for sharing services or other consolidation. Greenough said that the state referred the matter back to their committee.
“We were instructed to go out and find a grant and talk to the people at the state,” said Greenough. “They came back to us and said that we were not ready to go further in the state process and that we could actually do this ourselves and do it faster than the state.”
Village Department of Public Works foreman Jiem Rozell said that he has been pleased with the communication and cooperation between himself and the town highway department.
“We have been able to work real well together,” he said.
Greenough said that the biggest savings for sharing services between the two municipalities would be in the purchasing of equipment.
“The big savings would be in the large pieces of equipment,” said Greenough. “If the town or village owns a certain piece of equipment, the other group does not need to own one as well.
Rozell said that sharing equipment made good sense, and pointed to an example of equipment that the village has that could be offered to the town if they needed it.
“If the town needs a wing and we have had a wing that has been sitting down at the sewage plant for years, the way I look at it, the village owes the town a little bit in a year like this because of the way that they have helped us with the weather,” said Rozell.
‘If it’s excess and the town needs it, I say give it to them,” said village trustee Kenneth Bartholomew.
“I hope then that we could come up with some agreement between the two for the purchasing of equipment,” said village trustee Don Hart.
Greenough said that when the time comes to work out a written agreement, it could be done between the two attorneys. However, Bartholomew said that he was concerned that there would be a conflict of interest.
“When you do that, you may have a problem because you have the same firm representing both the entities with Tony (Jordan) with the village and Andy (Kelly) with the town.”
As for the thought of complete consolidation, Greenough said that there was little comparison that could be made between Whitehall and Lake George, a village who is also looking down that route.
“If there is going to be any savings in Whitehall, it would be much, much less if at all,” said Greenough. “The Lake George budget is many times bigger than Whitehall’s. The savings are not in the meat and potatoes that you would think.”
“A big misconception is that the debt for the village would all go away,” said village trustee Walter Sandford. “The debt is only re-structured. I think that shared services is what is on everyone’s mind here, and not complete consolidation.”