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Consolidation: Five Questions... Charlie Mallow

By Philip Anselmo
Jan 13, 2009, 3:50pm

Earlier today, we contacted Charlie Mallow, Batavia's City Council president, and Greg Post, the town supervisor, to get their thoughts on some specifics about the upcoming consolidation plan. Mallow sent us his responses via e-mail this past hour. We include them below.

When we called Post, he told us that he wouldn't be available to answer the questions until later this evening. We will try to get in touch with him then and get his answers up once we have them. They were given the same questions.

Note: CGR is an abbreviation for the Center for Governmental Research, the group that put together the report in preparation for an upcoming study on consolidating the city and town of Batavia. You can download the complete report here. Our questions (verbatim) are in italics. Mallow's responses (verbatim) are in bold.

CGR's memorandum calls for a Consolidation Plan to be complete by May in order for community discussion to take place between then and November, in advance of the tentative November 3 vote. Does that sound like a tenable timeline?

The time tables are tight; there is no question about it. It will be a challenge to get the information out to the voters. It is doable and needs to be a priority.

What do you see as your role moving forward in this process? Do you plan to be a passive contributor—for example, you will sit for interviews and meetings when asked, but that's the extent of it? Or do you plan to actively promote consolidation efforts? If the latter, how do you plan to do so?

The experience I have gathered during the cities financial difficulties has made it very clear to me that individual municipalities cannot continue on the way we are. The tribalism that we have in NY is driving away business and making it impossible to compete. We need to eliminate layers of government as soon as humanly possible. I have every intention doing what I can to drive this consolidation issue. To do nothing when you know the future financial outcome resulting from doing nothing would be pure incompetence on my part.

CGR's memorandum states that a public vote is not required for a consolidation. Would you support efforts at consolidation if the residents were not allowed to make the final decision? If the residents do get to vote and they decide they do not want to go ahead with consolidation, but the state Legislature calls for it anyway, would you still support it?

The state should mandate consolidation but, it’s too incompetent and slow to react to make positive changes in our state. The special interests control Albany and most of what comes from state government is a stage show for political purposes. The state government is corrupted to such an extent that nothing good could ever come from Albany. That’s why I’m confident the state will do nothing to solve a major problem like the over abundance of small municipal taxing entities in our state.

CGR states that "current boundaries and the resulting turf protection issues have made it very difficult to develop cost effective regional solutions to deliver ambulance, police and fire services." Do you agree with that? Is consolidation the only answer to these problems? Do you feel these problems would remain if consolidation did not go through?

You’re talking about three distinct issues. Consolidation between the City/Town would be a first step. None of the issues you mentioned would be solved by a vote for consolidation in November. We have asked for a plan that would NOT increase or decrease services or change the tax structures in the city/town. Consolidation would decrease some of the costs and put our community in a position to deal with those other issues in the future.

Fire services are handled by fire districts; these districts cross municipal lines and require another round of consolidation prompted by the state to move forward. I believe county departments have trouble attracting volunteers and getting good response times during the day. The amount of districts also has cost millions in redundant equipment purchases. There are far more fire trucks in this county than are needed. Consolidation of fire districts would be a long and painful task, which is not part of this effort.

Police protection is something that would remain a city service unless there was a petition by residents in the old town who desired the service. Again we are not talking about increasing the level of service anywhere in the town with consolidation. Just sharing the things we currently all need. 

From my point of view ambulance service is something that should come from the county. This service was started by people in the city who had very little knowledge of the long term problems inherent with taking on that service. The city is currently in a position of collecting fees from municipalities it has no taxing jurisdiction over to keep the service afloat. The long term cost of continuing the service the same way would be devastating to our cities finances. This problem is a separate issue that council will be tackling in the upcoming year.

CGR presents population research that shows that the city of Batavia decreased in population by .7 percent between 2001-2006, while the town of Batavia increased 26.2 percent. Do you feel these trends will continue? How could such trends benefit or hinder consolidation efforts?

The town has shovel ready land and a lot of it. The town also has the benefit of 16,000 city residents who shop in their business district. There is no choice but, for new developments to grow outside the city, there simply is very little land to develop inside the city.

Timothy Paine

Excellent answers Charlie! The redundancy of equipment in such close proximity has been something I've always been shocked about. You're right, that stuff is really expensive. Whether it's Highway dept., Police or Fire departments it's a huge dollar figure just on duplicate equipment. Other non-essential stuff can be sharde between departments. This sounds like a great step to stop "business as usual" mentality.

Jan 14, 2009, 2:48am Permalink
Robert Hunt

Charlie made mention of redundant equipment purchases, I’m not really sure what he means. Does he mean trucks, equipment on the trucks or both?

The Town of Batavia Fire Department Inc. carries a lot of specialized equipment on their trucks and the primary reason is that they protect an airport, railway and a major highway. They also solely own and maintain all of their trucks, equipment, and buildings.

If Charlie is just counting trucks and equipment between the City and Town fire department then he is pretty naive. There is a thing called ISO! Your ISO rating is based on several things some of which are not fire department controlled. One thing they do look at is the type and number of trucks a department has along with the equipment on them. They also look at where these trucks are located geographically. If there were no Town or City fire department and just one department to cover the whole area you would still have the same amount of trucks and stations at minimum to maintain the current ISO ratings.

The Town of Batavia and City of Batavia fire departments are both part of the mutual aid agreement and do currently share services. There has been a pretty good working relationship established between the two over the last few years and when one needs the other they call for help.

As a Town resident the only thing I see consolidation of the two would do is decrease the tax burden for city residences and increase it for town residences.

Jan 14, 2009, 9:38am Permalink
Charlie Mallow

Robert, I was not trying to enter into your fire district turf war. I was explaining why fire districts were not a part of this consolidation effort.

I was also making a comment about the sheer amount of firefighting equipment, county wide. If you start thinking about county wide government and eliminating individual municipalities and creating a county wide fire district, you then understand we could make do with less.

I was a part of the fire district consolidation committee a few years ago; I understand ISO ratings and how much equipment it would take to have a joint City/Town fire district.

Jan 14, 2009, 9:38am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Reminder, we don't allow anonymous comments on The Batavian. I've removed the two anonymous comments in this thread, so some of the responses might not make sense now.

Jan 15, 2009, 1:57pm Permalink
Timothy Paine

Robert, I hope I understand your comment. Please let me know if I'm wrong. Future dealings with the two Fire districts will not hurt the volunteers one bit. If I understand things that are going on this will only help the volunteers. The City doesn't want to (nor can afford) to expand an extremely expensive department. With the help of the volunteer base the hope is to decrease salary expenses. That will only aid in the ability to expand the volunteer forces equipment and training that they need and deserve. I'm sure there is some duplication in current equipment that can be replaced sooner and with better stuff if it covered one bigger district than two smaller ones. If some of the huge money we spend on salaries was diverted towards better equipment and training it would only make us all safer.

Jan 15, 2009, 6:20pm Permalink
Robert Hunt

Timothy, I wasn't refering to staffing or training. Firefighting is a very dangerous job and the more help you have the better. I was refering to the comment about redundant equipment.

Basically what I'm saying is that if you start reducing the number of trucks, equipment or stations your ISO rating may be greatly impacted.

Jan 15, 2009, 10:06pm Permalink
Timothy Paine

Bob, I understand what you are saying. I wasn't suggesting a reduction in trucks. I was looking at a situation that sometimes happens. Maybe you don't always get the desired equipment, you get what a budget will allow. You'll get good stuff instead of the best stuff. I want EVERY FIREMAN to have the best stuff. I understand the dangerous nature of the job and I have the utmost respect for the great job done in our community by both districts. I just see a "pooling" of resources beneficial. I want ALL Firemen to have the best stuff available. Reducing the biggest expense can free up some serious cash for better gear. The last thing I want to do is reduce the things that make your job safer. I think if the right moves are made, the volunteers will get better gear and more of it. The Town Dept. has an excellent record and I'd like to see you guys get the stuff you need. I really appreciate your response. It's only when all aspects are known from all sides that a desirable solution can be reached. You never know where or from whom the best idea will come from. I actually had a chuckle at the Oak St. meeting when the best idea came from a resident young lady when there were 2 NYS traffic experts in the room.

Jan 16, 2009, 5:05am Permalink
John Roach

Twice now you guys have tried to get Town supervisor to say what he "thinks" about even the idea of merger/consolidation.

Have you flushed him out yet. It would be nice to know if he supports the concept or not. If not, then all the above may have been for nothing.

Jan 16, 2009, 7:11am Permalink
Philip Anselmo

John: I have as yet received no response from the supervisor.

I first phoned him the other day and he asked that I please call him back after 6:00pm; he couldn't talk while he was working, he said. That seemed strange as I've had conversations with him on several other occasions during the day about other topics. Unfortunately, I was unable to reach him that evening.

I also sent an e-mail with all the same questions that were posed to Charlie. No response yet.

I will try to reach him again today.

Jan 16, 2009, 7:56am Permalink
John Roach

The group doing the study stated that the local officals need to get behind this early if they want it to happen. So far, the City officals have, but not one from the Town?

Are going along with the study just to make it look good and then not supporat it for political reasons?

Are any Town jobs up for election this year?

Greg Post might have very good reasons for not being able to talk with you yet, but we'll see.Your next effort should tell us all we have to know about his level of support.

Jan 16, 2009, 9:27am Permalink
Timothy Paine

In no way shape or form did I suggest they were not well trained. My question to you is, "are you saying there is no more training or equipment they want or need?". I said they have a great record. I would trust my family and my home to them in a heart beat. I just know there is always more available to keep them safer. Will you state that they have everything they want or need?

Jan 17, 2009, 1:26pm Permalink
Kelly Hansen

ATTN: 'Let's all work together'

There is a difference between an anonymous tip and an anonymous comment.

What is welcomed at <i>The Batavian</i> is anonymous news tips. Posting comments while hiding behind a nom de plume is greatly frowned upon and considered by many to be cowardly.

Hope I helped to clear up any confusion.

Jan 17, 2009, 3:49pm Permalink
Russ Stresing


If you consider your opinions to be valid and well-supported, why be coy? Come out and be your beautiful self, superstar.

Jan 17, 2009, 4:00pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

I missed "Together's" latest anonymous post, which went up seven hours ago .. just spotted it and deleted it.

Since I've given him or her at least three days to correct his profile, I've also blocked the account.

Kelly, you are right -- "anonymous tips" refers only to the news tips button at the top of the page ... we welcome anonymous tips that we will then follow up on and do our best to turn into a reliable news story.

Jan 17, 2009, 5:06pm Permalink
Russ Stresing

The Batavian's policy is sound and nearly unique.

However, I do miss what amounts to this site's puzzle page:decoding Laz's contributions.

Jan 17, 2009, 5:11pm Permalink
Charlie Mallow

I think I have been far more open than anyone in my position has been before. What I expect is simple. If you have a question, please let me know who is asking and I will do my best to help.

As for the “TRUTH”, you would have to be delusional to believe that my goal in life is to replace the TBFD.

If my words to the questions above led anyone to believe that, I’m sorry it was not my intention. I’m not some Albany politician who can carefully measure every word so, that it can withstand being twisted.

Jan 17, 2009, 5:27pm Permalink
Tom Gilliatt

I'm sure if Laz wanted too he could just join up under a new name.

Posted by Russ Stresing about 60 minutes ago
The Batavian's policy is sound and nearly unique.

However, I do miss what amounts to this site's puzzle page:decoding Laz's contributions.

Jan 17, 2009, 6:12pm Permalink

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