Consolidation may be the answer, Massena mayor says
Friday, February 24, 2017 - 11:26 am

To the Editor:

The Village of Massena has agreed to sell the parcels of property on South Main Street that formerly housed our public works facility to St. Lawrence Soy. They will construct a multi-million-dollar facility and several new jobs will be created as a result of this.

In recent years, those parcels were used for bulk material storage (salt, sand, top soil); composting pile and various other materials. As a result of the sale of the property on South Main Street, the Village of Massena must find a suitable location where we can construct a new salt storage facility, store other bulk materials, composting materials, as well as other public works materials and inventory.

Initially, my preferred thought was to consolidate the Village Public Works operation at one facility. Therefore, we purchased the 33 acres of land adjacent to the Bushnell Fields property, behind our public works facility on Robinson Road.

After months of discussions, after holding a number of meetings with citizens that live on Urban Drive and that area, and touring the properties of those people impacted by both the public works operation and the adjacent commercial properties in the area on Urban Drive, I struggle to come to terms with making a decision that would adversely impact these good people even more. I do however, still feel that we could move to this site and do it in a manner that minimizes the impact to the residents in this area.

I have reservations about relocating the bulk items to this location. From purely a fiscal sense, this is a no brainer. We will reduce cost and over years realize substantial savings by consolidating our facilities and reducing our footprint.

However, the residents of Urban Drive endure significant inconveniences now, is it fair to them to increase that just for the purpose of saving money?

The Town of Massena has been considering options to deal with their aged Highway Department building on South Raquette Road.

Although the Village of Massena has a sense of urgency to resolve this issue, the town does not. They recognize the need to do something, however the Town of Massena is not in the position where they must act immediately. We have had some preliminary discussions with them on a shared or joint facility. We even briefly discussed taking a bigger step and consider merging these departments. To this point, neither concept has gained much traction.

Given the current economic climate, the various challenges our local governments face with controlling cost and providing adequate services, in my view the time is perfect to look more broadly, not only at the public works facility, but at the size of our local governments and where we can improve efficiencies and services.

Currently, the village and town do a great job in the area of shared services. The village provides code enforcement, building inspection, potable water and fire protection to the town. Both entities operate a joint recreation department, our courts share a facility and staff, and we work together in a number of other areas, as well.

If the Town of Massena plans to renovate or construct a new town garage building in the near future, and since we need to do something to address our bulk storage needs, at the very least, we should be doing this together, if feasible. Where and how obviously needs to be worked out, but I have every confidence in both boards that this can be planned out.

As we consider a shared facility. I can’t help but think of taking this discussion a step or two further. Why not consider merging these two departments. The Town Highway and the Village Public Works departments do similar work. We should follow our own examples, like we did with Joint Recreation, and look at this real possibility. This would be a really progressive step that will ultimately reduce cost.

Additionally, I think we need to look at reducing the size of local government all-together.

This month I began to develop the Village of Massena 2017-2018 Budget. I see, firsthand, the challenges of continuing to provide necessary and important services while controlling cost. It is at best, very difficult, and in many cases, impossible.

Consolidation has been studied a number of times in Massena, and on every occasion the findings did not support it, due mostly to the “West Massena issue” (portion of Town of Louisville located within Village of Massena).

Given the Governor’s considerable desire to see local governments share services, merge and consolidate, perhaps we need to take another look. I have yet to see a viable way to consolidate the Town and Village that would ultimately save money when the West Massena issue is factored in, however I am open to taking another look.

If consolidation is not feasible, I would also like to seriously look at a coterminous form of government, where the Village limits can be extended to the township, and one single unit of government governs the community. If consolidation doesn’t work for Massena, and the studies have shown that, then a coterminous government should be seriously considered.

Tim Currier

Village of Massena mayor