CATSKILL — Formation of a health care consortium in Greene County is expected to figure prominently today in the second of three planned shared services public hearings.
The hearing, to be held today at Hunter Town Hall, begins at 6 p.m.
The statewide initiative proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo aims to save taxpayers money by implementing shared services or other cooperative arrangements between governments in the county. Some ways to consolidate services include joint purchases, sharing highway equipment and eliminating duplicate services.
The first meeting scheduled for May 23 ended after no one showed up.
Examples of potential ideas for sharing services will be aired, but the idea of a countywide health care consortium will figure prominently, Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said.
“It’s the one thing that represents the most opportunity for savings,” he said.
A shared jail between Greene and Columbia counties is not eligible for the shared services initiative because the sharing must occur within county borders and not with another county, Groden said, adding he will discuss the shared jail — assuming it’s brought up.
“Technically, that’s outside the bounds of the meeting,” Groden said. “But if that’s the topic du jour I have no problem discussing it.”
The next panel group of Greene County’s town and village and leaders will meet Thursday to discuss more shared services initiatives, Groden said. Any concept the leaders agree to will be taken back to their respective boards and Groden will bring them to the Legislature.
“That has to be done by September,” he said. “If there’s a dissenting vote, that ends the discussion.”
In the discussions, the practicality of two communities sharing services has been brought up. Geography will play an important role in who is sharing and where.
“It wouldn’t make sense for Athens and Ashland to share a service because they are far apart in distance,” Groden said. “Athens and Catskill are contiguous to each other. That makes more sense.”
On Main Street in Catskill many believed shared services could be achieved.
The idea of two municipalities sharing highway equipment is sensible considering how fragile the economy is, Kurt Holsapple, of Catskill, said. To avoid mishaps with two municipalities sharing services, communication is key.
“I think it’s a basic, common-sense thing,” he said.
Barbara Shook, of Catskill, is in favor of sharing services to save taxpayer money but wants to see a list of potential ideas or a referendum, she said, adding long distances between municipalities could create an issue if services are consolidated.
“Will these services be accessible if you combine them?” Shook said.
Shook is hopeful shared services will work out and plans to attend one of the public hearings on shared services if she can.
“It’s definitely needed and I hope it works out well,” she said.
Sharing services between two towns will create confusion and inefficiency, Jim Hyer, of Catskill, said, adding the way the village of Catskill is run is excellent.
“I can’t be more satisfied with Catskill,” Hyer said. “It’s very well run as far as I can see.”
The third and final shared services public hearing will be held July 12 at 6 p.m. at the Emergency Services Building in Cairo in the multi-purpose room.
To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM.