MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan will be focusing a lot on regional solutions and shared services during his final year on the job.
On Wednesday night Horrigan delivered his 2017 State of the County message to the legislature, which, as it turns out, will also be his last. At the end of the address, Horrigan announced he would not be running for reelection in 2017. However, Horrigan said that even though he has less than a year left on the job, he still plans to focus on a variety of initiatives, including those involving regional solutions.
In fact, Horrigan said the county has already laid groundwork in that effort with its Regional Solutions Commission, which focused on several projects in 2016 and will also put together a plan on a dozen other projects this year that could lead to significant financial assistance from Albany.
“The commission has identified 12 projects to either merge, consolidate, or share services,” Horrigan said during his State of the County. “These projects have been submitted to the state as part of a municipal consolidation and efficiency competition and last week, as many of you know, our county was awarded $50,000 as part of Phase 1 of the state program. This will require us to develop a plan for the final round of the competition to try and take home $20 million for regional solutions.”
CONSOLIDATION PROPOSAL BETWEEN CITY, COUNTY STILL IN PLANNING PHASE
One of the regional solutions proposals is a consolidation plan between the city of Jamestown and the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office. The plan, which has already received state funding to help guide it along, has been in the discussion phase for more than four years.
While Horrigan didn’t specifically mention the consolidation in his state of the county address, WRFA did ask him about it following Wednesday night’s presentation. He said 2017 may be the year that it is finalized and put before city and county lawmakers for review and action, although some details still need to be ironed out.
“What I found is that the way we were going about it is that we were trying to merge collective bargaining units and it’s very hard to do that,” Horrigan. “We have a model where we provide contract services to Cherry Creek, and all over the county. We’re happy to do that to the city as well, and maybe there’s some adjustment there as well. We’ll see how that goes.”
Horrigan also said that any public safety agreement between the county and city also needs to be mindful of labor relations with the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Deputies Association, as well as with the JPD’s bargaining unit, the Kendall Club.
“Whatever we do, I’ll have to be able to sell it to the legislature. That’s very important. And the last thing I want to do, where we have very good labor relations with our team, all of a sudden get into a situation where collective bargaining agreements become a point of contention, or we’re stepping on the [city’s labor groups], I’m not sure that’s going to help anybody.”
In 2012 Jamestown received a state grant to hire Rochester-based consulting firm the Center for Governmental Research to help develop a plan to have the city contract with the sheriff’s office in order to help save the city money, at no additional cost to the county.
An initial report from CGR stated that the savings from such an agreement could be as high as $1.4 million annually, once fully in place. The savings would be due to the city reducing the number of JPD officers who provide public safety and instead bringing in Sheriff Deputies, who work under a labor agreement that has less costly benefits than what officers in the JPD union receive.
It’s not so much a consolidation of the two departments with one going away, but more of a contractual arrangement with between the city and county that as officers at the Jamestown city level retire or should otherwise leave employment would be replaced by a contracted county employee, because of the savings differential on salary, retirement, and other expenses,” Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi explained last July.