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May 4, 2017 - 4:41pm

County to begin process of forming shared services committee in answer to governor's mandate

posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, shared services, consolidation, news.

The latest mandate on county governments isn't all bad, the way at least one local legislator and County Manager Jay Gsell see it.  

It's not a bad thing, they say, to look at opportunities to institute new shared services agreements among local agencies.

The difficulty may come in finding where those cost savings can be realized when the county has already consolidated many operations with other government agencies.

To meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo's requirement, the county must convene a committee of people representing the other government agencies in the county -- the city, schools, towns, villages -- and explore options for consolidation of agencies or shared services among agencies. The committee's work will result in a report approved by the County Legislature and delivered to the governor's office within two years.

There's no requirement that any of the ideas generated by the process actually be implemented.

That's certainly the governor's goal, Gsell said, but right now he just wants to push along the process of local agencies talking along these lines.

"In the initial year this is more (about) dialogue and discussion, (to) gauge whether there is interest in doing some of the things we’ve talked about," Gsell said.

Legislator Andrew Young said he thinks it's a good idea to have these discussions anyway.

"It helps get the discussion started," Young said during yesterday's Ways and Means Committee meeting. "I’m not saying it’s going to be easy because when mandates come down on us from the almighty it bothers us, but we should try to embrace this.”

Going back to the 1990s, the county has been involved in finding opportunities for shared services, Gsell said, starting with the Highway Department and its arrangement with town highway departments. The county has also been involved in creating shared services for emergency dispatch, consolidating the youth bureaus, including combining with Orleans County, and the health departments between Genesee and Orleans counties.

None of that will help the county with this report, though. The participating local governments must look for new opportunities.

Those might include a consolidated assessors office (right now, three assessors are shared among multiple agencies), or the creation of a centralized procurement office, consolidating code enforcement and zoning.

Right now, those are just examples and all come with their own challenges. Identifying those challenges will be part of the reporting process for the governor.

There may be ideas for consolidation or shared services that require the approval of legislators in Albany, and big projects, such as a shared jail between Genesee and Orleans counties, come with an array of challenges and potential legal complications.

The fact, though, that the county has completed so many shared services projects bodes well for officials to find more opportunities to cooperate, Gsell said.

"All of that stuff is behind us, but the fact that we’ve done this is an indication to me that we can do more," Gsell said. "We just have to put it on the table and get people to put on the table what are their issues, what are their constraints, and how do we get past them."

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