Apr 16, 2008 Ami Olson Uncategorized
Representatives from five separate village, town, and county entities were present Thursday night at the Government Modernization Community Conversation at the Camillus Senior Center.
Hosted by the Camillus Chamber of Commerce, the conversation was meant to solicit ideas from the community about how things might be restructured to improve the efficiency of government, said chamber member George Mango.
The conversation addressed the complexities and problems faced by communities when discussing modernization and consolidation of government, and struggled to determine whether such change would be cost effective or embraced by the public.
“This is not meant at all to be a political statement,” Mango said. He emphasized the goal of bringing about a dialogue and welcoming fresh, new ideas from the community.
The question of addressing rising costs and decreasing funding repeated throughout the discussion.
“As costs go up, it does force you to look at different ways of doing things,” said Camillus Highway Superintendent Mark Pigula.
Mango used the recent restructuring in Clay as an example of a community’s ability to modernize government, and said though Camillus is a growing community, it is not yet able to compete in a global economy.
“We have to become more competitive in our area to enhance the quality of life [of residents],” Mango said.
Representing West Genesee Central School District, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Brian Kesel noted the recent progress made through consortia between school districts in central New York to help offset the rising costs of diesel fuel.
Kesel also pointed out the relationship between the district and the town, including the ‘quid pro quo’ agreement with the Parks and Recreation Department, which allows the WG hockey program to use the ice rink in exchange for the town’s use of the district gymnasiums.
Kesel said no money was exchanged in the agreement, an example of how two separate entities consolidated resources for the betterment of the community.
“We’ve got to find a way to bring costs down,” said Town Supervisor Mary Ann Coogan. “Why do we need so many layers?”
She made an example of the water departments, currently separate for the town, county, and city.
“Maybe metro doesn’t need to be there,” she said of the city water department, citing each entity’s separate responsibility to pay employees’ wages, benefits, and retirement money, among other costs.
Though some ideas — such as considering county-run school districts like those already in place in some southern states — were admittedly drastic, the forum addressed topics including transportation, education, and town and county departments.
“You have to put everything on the table,” Kesel said. “In the end, it’s all about what the community expects.”
Chamber of Commerce Don Laxton, who has lived in Camillus for 30 years, said he was not sure why so few community members attended the conversation, but he was hopeful that the community would become more involved.
The Chamber hopes to hold another conversation in the upcoming months; a date has not been finalized.