Cobleskill happy with consolidation report

By Patsy Nicosia

Few surprises, but a lot of opportunity.
That’s how Cobleskill leaders are characterizing the results of a $40,000 study by the Center for Governmental Research some of them received a few days ago.
CGR representatives will be on hand Tuesday, July 29 for a 7pm meeting at the fire house to answer any technical questions on the report and provide context for their findings.
In a nutshell, the report finds consolidating the town and village could save about $150,000 annually, but outlines other moves—things like combining zoning and planning boards and sharing office space—that could be easier “first steps.”
“I’m happy with it. I think it’s a good report in that there’s some ‘low-hanging fruit,’” said Mayor Mike Sellers. “Things like that that we could do pretty easily that would get us on our way.”
Bigger steps like structuring the Police Department, a controversial move CGR has backed off from since its preliminary report, would take more time—and work, Mayor Sellers said.
Supervisor Roger Cohn said he sees a lot of the report’s value in that it puts numbers to some of the things the two municipalities have been discussing—and in some cases working on—for a while.
“The mayor and I have been talking about moving town offices back into the village,” Mr. Cohn said. “There might be some space at the village offices. And that’s a recommendation.”
Mr. Cohn pointed out that it’s unlikely they’ll be able to make all of the report’s recommendations happen, but he’s optimistic that by working together, the town and village can accomplish some of them.
“We’re working together now,” he said. “That’s a real plus.”
Ken Hotopp, a town councilman, is one of those who served on the study’s Steering Committee.
Overall, he said, the changes it outlines won’t mean big money in savings for the two municipalities, he said, but they will mean more efficient and better service.
Working together on things like planning, the courts, and the Highway Department makes a lot of sense, he said, and in the case of the Highway Department, something town and village representatives have been doing for a while now.
Mr. Hotopp said whether the village should be more fairly compensated for the services its Police Department provides or if a different arrangement should be worked out with Schoharie County are both ideas that need more discussion.
“That’s one of the important pieces of this,” he said. “That we keep discussing all of it.”
For his part, Mr. Hotopp said he doesn’t think there’s a groundswell of support for dissolving the village.
John O’Donnell, another member of the Steering Committee, has a better idea: Looking into the whole idea of city status.
“This is an opportunity for us to really do something and impact the entire county if we start something here,” Mr. O’Donnell said.
“We need to study it [city status]. There are benefits and there are disadvantages.”
One advantage is that the City of Cobleskill would receive a greater share of the local sales tax, something Mr. O’Donnell said might lower property taxes and encourage new businesses and growth.
A disadvantage is that other towns would be forced to pick up a bigger share of the bill and Mr. O’Donnell said everyone involved needs to look creatively at ways around that.
“We need to take the broad view and lay the foundation for real economic development for years from now,” he said. “I think CGR did a good job. They gave us good information and now we need to keep working with it.”
Both the town and village plan to put the CGR report on their respective websites.
Mr. Hotopp said he’ll ask Town Clerk Tina Shuart to print out some hard copies and he’s hoping the village will also make hard copies available at its office.

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