The prospect of border municipalities engaging in the practice of Shared Services suggests there may be a better way.
“We’re working for our residents, working together, saving the taxpayers money and getting the job done,” says Mike Monroe, deputy highway superintendent for the town of Wilton, while involved in a street-paving collaboration with the town of Greenfield, resulting in both town Highway Departments working together.
The New York State Office of the State Comptroller published its 37-page guide, “Shared Services in Local Government,” shortly after the financial crisis of 2008.
Shared services help municipalities increase effectiveness and efficiency in their operation, reduce or avoid costs, and improve service delivery or help to maintain services, according to the report, which encourages “municipal corporations” and “districts” to cooperate with each other in carrying out their respective responsibilities.
How to get started? Local governments should perform a “needs assessment” to determine if an existing function can be provided more cost effectively or more efficiently through a cooperation agreement. The guiding principle is that each municipality should achieve some benefit through the cooperative agreement.
The towns of Wilton and Greenfield border one another and each borders the city of Saratoga Springs.
The town of Greenfield Highway Department, located in Porter Corners, provides residents with road repairs and improvements; winter snow and ice removal; and roadway safety features, drainage repairs and improvements, and bridge maintenance.
The town of Wilton Highway Department is responsible for maintaining approximately 100 center-line miles of town roads, from snow removal and ice control to paving and maintenance of roads, signage, roadway markings, drainage, tree and brush cutting. County roads are maintained by Saratoga County.
A street-paving job was scheduled to take place on Hillside avenue and on Hudson avenue. Both feed off State Route 9, near Loughberry Lake.
“Part is in the town of Greenfield, part is in the town of Wilton,” Monroe says. “We decided to get it all done in one shot.”
The town of Wilton used their new paver, the town of Greenfield helped with traffic control, conducted handwork and provided some trucks.
“The town of Greenfield called me and said they were going to overlay their part of the road in Greenfield and to see if we could do something on our end. I talked to our board and got the funds and decided we were going to do our half too,” says Monroe, a Wilton native who has been with the town highway department for the past 20 years.
Kirkland Woodcock, who celebrated his 80th birthday in March, announced his retirement this year after serving as Wilton’s Highway Superintendent since the 1980s. The position is an elected one and Monroe hopes to take on that role. He will be running for election to the two-year term in November.
“This is the first time we paved with another town. Usually, a town will pave a road up to where their town line is and then it’s up to the next town to get the job finished -but on this project we worked together to get it done,” Monroe says.
“It’s beneficial for the taxpayers because we’re working together. Instead of me having my whole crew here, I can have some guys out mowing guardrails and doing cemetery work, because working with another town I don’t have to have all my guys here,” he says. “I think we would do it again if it makes sense, and in certain cases it does make sense to work together with another town to get a project done.”