October 19, 2010
Sharing municipal services - wave of the future?
Two cities in heavily taxed Niagara County have agreed to share the burden of providing water services. But the deal first needed to get around objections from a municipal labor union.
The new pact allows Lockport to close its water treatment plant and pay North Tonawanda for potable water. According to the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, Lockport and North Tonawanda stand to save $35,000 and $70,000 respectively in salary and benefits alone.
Lockport mayor Michael Tucker summed it up nicely:
North Tonawanda's in the middle of a tough budget process and so are we...these are the things we have to do.
The Buffalo News reported in August that an earlier version of this plan was quashed when there was push back from the Office and Professional Employees International Union, which cited concerns that the proposed director of the merged systems was "unfamiliar with the North Tonawanda system".
[North Tonawanda mayor Robert] Ortt said the union has taken two different positions on a proposed job merger, supporting one where they retain a union member.
A Lockport Union-Sun & Journal editorial, endorsing the consolidation, notes:
But in our opinion, it's a fantastic move. In this day and age, of tighter budgets, less revenue and a shrinking tax base, everything is on the table...
North Tonawanda has been without a head of their system since April, when the former Superintendent left to run the Niagara Falls Water Board.
The State should make it easier for city mayors and managers to craft deals like this one -- without the threat of union interference -- by streamlining the Taylor Law, one of the recommendations in the Empire Center's Taylor Made report.
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