In a time where every municipality is trying to hold the line on its budget, Putnam County is working with the local towns and villages to share equipment and facilities so the taxpayer does not have to bear the burden of unnecessary redundancy. The county’s latest instance of loaning out its equipment to the Town of Kent.
Kent Highway Superintendent Richie Othmer was talking with County Executive MaryEllen Odell, Legislator Lou Tartaro and Commissioner of Highways & Facilities Fred Pena about the need for his department to rent a tractor trailer for a week in order to complete a roadwork project. The rental would have Kent $3,000.
Rather than having Kent’s highway department incur unnecessary expenses, it was recommended that the town borrow the county’s Lowboy tractor trailer instead.
“I have been an advocate of sharing resources and equipment since I was a legislator and chaired the Fiscal Vision & Accountability Commission,” said Odell. “We are able to spend less and save money for the taxpayers by sharing services and equipment. We cannot look at each municipality as an island unto itself. We are like a family and have to help each other out whenever possible. ”
According to Pena, sharing the county’s equipment and manpower with the towns and villages is a common occurrence in Putnam.
“This is the equivalent of going to your neighbor and asking to borrow his chainsaw or other piece of equipment that he might own but not use all of the time,” said Pena. We do everything from sharing equipment or manpower to equipment and manpower. We do make sure that there is an Intermunicipal Agreement (IMA) in place to define the scope of the project and who is responsible for the equipment and material.”
Othmer said being able to have this type of partnership with the county is helpful and fiscally responsible.
“The trailer would have cost me $3000 to rent for the week, but instead I was able to save $3000 for the Kent taxpayers because the county was willing to loan the department theirs,” Othmer said. “It is a good partnership that benefits the taxpayers.”
Tartaro is looking for other opportunities for the county to assist his constituents in Kent as well as other towns. “Partnerships between the county and the towns really benefit the taxpayers who I think appreciate out-of-the-box thinking like County Executive MaryEllen Odell encourages instead of government just raising taxes and bonding projects.” Tartaro said. “The roof of Kent’s salt shed collapsed this past winter. It was the second time in three years that it has done it. The town does not have the money to build a new facility so I am exploring the possibility of the county allowing Kent to share the use of its salt shed on Fair Street.”
The county already shares the use of its salt sheds with the towns of Carmel and Putnam Valley.
“We try to be as amenable as we can with the towns and villages,” said Pena. “However, we do not have an open door policy of letting the other municipalities use our equipment any time they want for as long as you want, it is only on an available basis. For example, Phillipstown highway department requested to use our grater, but we are currently using it to work on our roads so it is not available.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is linking mandate tax relief in 2015 to the coordination of shared services between local governments.
“We have been implementing the idea of shared services since I took office,” said Odell. “We did not wait to join the bandwagon. I am a firm believer that the only way we can slow the growth of budgets is to invest in shared services and public-private partnerships.