Cattaraugus County Already On Track To Meet Governor’s Standards For Shared Services

LITTLE VALLEY – A recent landslide in the town of Perrysburg brought out the spirit of cooperation and proved that Cattaraugus County is on track to be able to implement Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tax freeze for shared services plan, according to Joseph Pillittere, county commissioner of public works.

In the Feb. 5 meeting of the county Public Works Committee, Pillittere showed evidence that municipalities in the region are more than willing to give aid in return for other forms of help along the way. Along a section of Indian Hill Road, in the town of Perrysburg, damage that started with the flood of 2009, that left Gowanda in a state of emergency, finally pulled dirt and bedding out from beside a roadway. Perrysburg officials contacted Pillittere and his personnel to bring out a total of five Jersey barriers to aid in protection of motorists on the road, as a solution could be completed.

“There is a give and take [between the municipalities], ” Pillittere said. “It’s under that kind of relationship that we can come out to help them.”

County employees brought the concrete barriers to the site on the county-owned lowboy truck and placed them. The roadway was secured in a matter of mere days said Mark Burr, county engineer. In return for services like this, employees in the town of Perrysburg will perform services on behalf of county employees. Pillittere said the county receives use of Perrysburg’s fuel depot, some plowing service and mowing in return for their services.

The important part of the barrier transport and installation, according to County Administrator John R. “Jack” Searles, is that Pillittere was able to quantify the savings realized in the job. Pillittere said the cost of the service, to include labor and equipment operation, is about $311.50.

“According to the governor’s executive budget proposal, there is a tax freeze eligibility for intergovernmental activities, such as this,” Searles said. “I am happy to hear a dollar amount associated with the work. That’s what we are going to need for this program. We need to show our savings.”

The proposed freeze plan, as presented by Cuomo, is a two-year program. In the first year, municipalities in the county must develop budgets within the tax cap. In the second year, they will have to live within the cap and quantify savings through consolidations and shared services. That first year would coincide with the next budget year for Cattaraugus County.

“If we are able to meet those qualifications, residents in the county will receive rebates on property tax, equivalent to the amount saved in the municipality,” Searles explained to the committee members. “There is a huge amount of work needed to be able to quantify all of the shared service, but we are on the right track, in seeing this number.”

According to Searles, there is talk of a goal of a 3 percent reduction in property tax across the state in the next five years.

In conjunction with the creek, services and efforts are being shared in another way. Repairs to the creek bed must be made to make sure the roads are safe, Burr said. In 2009, the flooding made significant movement, up to 25 feet of movement, in areas of the creek bed.

County officials, in conjunction with town of Perrysburg and Seneca Nation of Indians, are working together in what is expected to be a $1 million project.

That project, according to Burr, would have the Seneca Nation Tribal Council go back to FEMA and modify the flood assessment from 2009. The project would then be eligible for funding to repair about 1,000 feet of creek bed. The issue is a time-sensitive one, however, having to be complete by Sept. 30. Service agreements need to be in place and approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have to be reached before any of the realignment and armoring of the creek can be started. Burr said the permitting from the Army Corps can take as long as four months.

The Seneca Nation has been brought into the project because the land is adjacent to the Cattaraugus Territory’s southern border and the roadway is considered to be a major access point onto the territory, Burr said.