Ulster County Executive Mike Hein’s proposal to pay towns to perform winter and possible light summer maintenance of County-owned roads within their jurisdictions (Gardiner Gazette, Iss. #6, Spring 2010) was made in response to a study commissioned with funding from a New York State Local Government Efficiency Grant. The study pointed out that over 30 counties throughout New York State were already engaged in similar arrangements with their local communities and that significant savings could be realized if a county could pay a town less than what it currently cost it to perform the services, and more than what it would cost the town to take on the additional work; in other words, a win-win-win scenario for both parties and taxpayers.
Following the release of the study, Hein formed a committee comprised of county and town leaders, along with representatives from labor and citizens organizations, to explore the potential savings opportunities in Ulster County and to develop an action plan to implement the proposal. The Implementation Committee held extensive discussions, asked and answered many questions, developed draft agreements and considered and discussed mile rates offered by the County. At the same time, representatives of the Ulster County Department of Public Works/Highway Department and the County Executive’s Office met with Highway Superintendents, Town Boards and interested taxpayers throughout the County to outline details of the proposal and to answer a multitude of questions.
As of this writing the County has visited and met with the Town Boards of the towns of Gardiner, Marbletown, Rosendale, Woodstock, Wawarsing and New Paltz. The Town of Gardiner has signed the shared services agreement with the County and was actually the first town in Ulster County to do so. It is a one year agreement to test the concept. Gardiner’s Highway Department will do winter maintenance (snow removal, sanding, etc.) on McKinstry Road and Sand Hill Road, a total of five miles. The county is also close to a final agreement with the Towns of Lloyd, New Paltz, Saugerties, Shandaken and Woodstock. In order to meet town and county budget deadlines, all agreements must be finalized by August 15, 2010.