The conversation of how to save money with rising government costs seems to keep leading local leaders to the same solution: shared services. As our Andrew Sorensen tells us, some in government are hoping to actually get the ball rolling this year with a regional shared services committee.
UTICA, N.Y.-- In City Halls like Utica's, the budget crunch seems to come down harder each year.
"State and federal funds are getting less and less and we're going to have to rely on each other more than ever," explained Common Council member Joe Marino (D).
Marino says the costs for pensions and employee healthcare are ballooning, and the best alternative to cutting services is to share them.
"If we plow your town, you mow our lawns," he said, as an example.
Marino wants to start a Regional Shared Services Committee with elected officials from Congressmen to town boards.
He said by combining everything from public safety to schools, municipalities will cut redundancies and get lower costs on big expenditures.
"Purchasing together is a big cost saving, buying health insurance together," he said.
Fire departments are a perfect example because they do basically the same thing across each municipality, but there are also a lot of services they can share.
Fire Chief Russell Brooks said they can share things like, "Handling of accidental chemical releases, hazardous materials, we have almost 100 people certified in codes enforcement."
Brooks said specialty services are just one benefit of this plan, but going through with it has proven tough before.
"People have their own little kingdoms and change is pain," he said.
But he says, there is significant overlap for fire departments in Oneida County, so it's probably worth looking at. Marino envisions the committee going even farther.
"I'm sure it'll start smaller but I'd like it to branch out to all of Central New York," he said.
Marino hopes to get the resolution passed this week to start getting other municipalities on board.
If other towns join in, they could start seeing major changes, and hopefully major savings within a few months.
Councilman Marino says he hopes the resolution will eventually lead to state grants designed for municipalities working toward consolidation.