Zoey St. Gelais, Anisha Belden and Anna Anderson have fun in the Moriah Central School gym. The school allows the town to use its facilities for youth programs as part of a shared services agreement.
The benefits of shared services have been obvious to Moriah and Port Henry officials for decades, but there’s a new emphasis on the idea following the governor’s state of the state address.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a property tax freeze for municipalities and school districts that remain under the state’s 2 percent tax cap two consecutive years and who demonstrate cost savings through shared services.
“The governor has made it clear there will be incentives for shared services,” Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said. “If the town, village and school can work together there’s carrot at the end of the stick.”
Scozzafava has already met with Bill Larrow, Moriah Central School superintendent, to discuss ways the town and school district can further work together. He plans to meet soon with Port Henry Mayor Ernie Guerin.
“This is something we’ve been doing for decades in Moriah,” Scozzafava said. “We’re in favor of anything that helps reduce the property tax burden.”
The town of Moriah and village of Port Henry already share a number of services. They share a police department, consolidating two separate agencies in 1993. They also share a wastewater treatment plant, a youth program, a justice court, assessors and the health center.
“We do a lot with the village,” Scozzafava said. “We’ll have to see if we can do more.”
Larrow pointed out the school district and the town also have a strong, mutual relationship.
The town plows the school parking lot, provides security at Linney Field during athletic events, disposes of sewage from the school and is now working with the school on a joint playground project at Linney Field. The town has also given the school its old police car to be used in driver’s education classes.
The school provides transportation, cafeteria services and athletic fields for the town youth program, opens its pool for recreational activities, allows use of the school as an emergency shelter and allows town personnel to use its distance learning lab for training sessions.
Larrow said the town and school district also share equipment and manpower when the need arises.
The local municipalities also work closely with Essex County. Scozzafava said. The town, village and county share in waste disposal at the trash transfer site, highway repairs and maintenance, bridge work and more, he said.
“There’s a lot we do,” Scozzafava said, “and I’m sure there’s more we can do.”
Another possible shared service is the consolidation of Moriah’s three separate fire departments and fire protection district.
“In my opinion, that’s the biggest thing we could do, right now,” Scozzafava said. “We’ve discussed this before and it’s gone no where, but at some point we have to sit down and talk about consolidating fire departments.”
Moriah now has three fire companies — Port Henry, Moriah and Mineville-Witherbee — along with a fire protection district.
At this point the governor’s proposal only applies to shared services going forward. The town, village and school won’t get credit for decades of past cooperation.
The supervisor said he is talking to state representatives about getting credit for shared services already in place.
“The town, village and school have been doing what the governor wants for years,” Scozzafava said. “It seems to me we should be recognized for what we’ve already done.”