Big plans for county

FONDA — A multi-community municipal center and courthouse on the site of the former Beech-Nut plant in Canajoharie may be one component of Montgomery County’s bid to win a $20 million state municipal consolidation grant.

Montgomery County Senior Planner William Roehr is the lead county official working on the Phase II Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Plan required by New York state for the $20 million Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition. Montgomery County is one of six local governments that has been selected by New York state to participate in the contest, which will award the money to government with the best efficiency plan. The deadline for the plan is June 28.

Roehr said the efficiency plan has in part been combined with Montgomery County’s Exit 29 plan to remediate the former Beech-Nut baby food plant site.

“In terms of which municipal offices, we don’t know who will be part of it, but there’s certainly interest that’s been expressed. The idea that we will put out there is there may be some type of joint-court facility that could serve multiple-communities,” Roehr said.

On Tuesday, County Executive Matt Ossenfort asked the county legislature’s Education and Government Committee to approve a resolution to transfer $65,000 from the county’s contingency account into the county executive’s professional services account, which, if approved by the full Legislature, will enable him to spend the money on three initiatives that will support the efficiency plan.

Ossenfort said $20,000 of the transferred funds will be combined with the $50,000 state grant Montgomery County received for being one of the top six, and the money will be used to pay for some expertise from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

“We’re looking at really expanding the team and bringing on some specialists,” Ossenfort said. “We’re meeting every week on Monday’s as a team, because really we have three months to essentially do at least a year’s worth of work, so we’re really trying to build a team that can put together a plan that not only can win, but can ultimately be implemented.”

Ossenfort said six to 10 master of public administration students will be helping Montgomery County with the development of its Phase II Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Plan. He said he believes the key to successfully implementing the plan will be doing as much research as possible before putting together a proposal.

“One of the things we’ve looked at is, where have other communities gone wrong with these initiatives? And a big part of that is to have the detail up front to explain and work with the municipalities who might be considering a consolidation or a functional consolidation or sharing of service, really being strong on the details and having a bold plan in place,” he said. “The goal is really to engage the Maxwell School for years and really look at, and make Montgomery County, a model for more efficiently delivering government services, looking at the structure of villages, towns, the county and how, if we had to rethink this and start from scratch — what would be the best plan? — and then base that off the political and financial realities that we are facing.”

Roehr said he thinks Montgomery County will have a decent shot at winning the $20 million, in part because the county is relatively small, with only about 50,000 residents, and the money will go a long way toward enabling meaningful efficiency measures and consolidation of services, which can then be studied and implemented elsewhere in New York state.

Another $16,000 of the transferred money will go to a company called Laserfiche, which is the provider of Montgomery County’s new electronic content management system, which was helps to preserve the county’s information in the event of a disaster. The Laserfiche system was purchased using a $144,886 state grant, and the additional $16,000 will be used to “back-file import processing” into the system.

Ossenfort said the remaining $30,000 in transferred funds will go to support Montgomery County’s Exit 29 project. He said the Exit 29 project has received a $1 million New York state grant, and it may receive an additional $2 to $3 million in grants if the county is successful in its applications for additional funding.

“[The approximately $30,000] is to have some funding in my county executive professional services line so that, should something come up, unexpected, during the course of doing a major remediation project, we’ll be able to act quickly and take on whatever issue of the day happens,” he said.

Ossenfort said one possible future use for part of the Beech-Nut site would be as a joint municipal center. According to the resolution passed by the Education and Government Committee the Lacey, Thaler, Reilly, Wilson Architecture and Preservation Firm will provide an in-kind contribution valued at $15,000 for schematics and renderings for the center.

“We’re looking at a multi-community municipal center, potentially on the Beech-Nut site. So, we have an engineering company that’s willing to help us with some renderings to give people a visual of what it may look like, what it could look like,” he said.

Ossenfort said some of the $30,000 may also go for a Brownfields project in St. Johnsville.

By Patricia Older

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