Press-Republican

March 5, 2014

City, town explore increased collaboration

Plattsburgh meeting planned for March 14

By DAN HEATH
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Two municipalities with a shared name are working toward increased collaboration to foster regional economic development.

The City of Plattsburgh and Town of Plattsburgh are looking to identify opportunities for more shared services than they collaborate on now. To that end, they will host Building Team Plattsburgh, A City and Town Collaboration, on March 14.

Town Supervisor Bernie Bassett said the event includes a chance for government officials and department heads to have roundtable discussions with their counterparts and examine how they can increase efficiencies and reduce costs. 

One goal is to come up with at least one strategy for each department cluster by the end of the event.

“We’re pretty proud of what we’re doing,” Bassett said.

City Mayor Jim Calnon, who took office in January and had been a city councilor before that, said he began meeting with Bassett more frequently after the November election on how to increase municipal collaboration.

“It’s a natural evolution of a relationship that has to be there,” he said. “This is step 1.”

They are working with The Development Corp. and Laberge Group consultant Benjamin Syden.

SOME SHARING NOW

Development Corp. Executive Director Paul Grasso said increased collaboration between the two municipalities is an effective selling point when they talk to Canadian companies about locating in Plattsburgh and the surrounding area. One of the first questions they are asked by prospects at presentations is the cost of services.

“This is very important to us from an economic-development standpoint,” he said. 

Calnon said it is important to note that some sharing of services already takes place. Examples include the town’s wastewater agreement with the city, the two recreation departments working to help ensure the success of local events, and resource sharing among departments in times of need.

Bassett and Calnon said they don’t see anything negative coming out of the initiative, and if it appears something would have a negative result, it simply won’t be done.

Constituents of both municipalities have long expressed concerns about the high cost of government. Bassett said this is an important step in addressing some of those concerns.

ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION

The tentative agenda calls for the event to start at 9 a.m. at Plattsburgh Town Hall, 151 Banker Road. Introductions will be followed by an overview of ways to foster collaboration, such as elimination or reduction of duplicated services; sharing resources and specialized skills; and identification of how such efforts would impact regional economic development and job creation.

Syden will deliver a Powerpoint presentation titled “Shared Services and the Case for Opportunity” starting at 9:45 a.m. 

Roundtable discussion among similar departments is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m., facilitated by Syden. The aim is to identify each department’s needs and wants; discuss how those could be met by shared resources; and make recommendations on possible actions toward that goal.

Those departments will then share at least one recommendation with the group. Bassett said he believes there will be some opportunities for improvement identified as part of the process.

“We’re finding ways to provide more services, better services and at reduced costs,” he said.

Email Dan Heath:dheath@pressrepublican.com