MASSENA — A consultant who studied the possible consolidation of the village and town of Massena says he doesn’t recommend the move.
“I don’t want to beat around the bush. Merger really can’t happen. Merger is not one of the options,” Kent Gardner, project director for the Center for Governmental Research, Rochester, said during a presentation to the village and town boards on July 22.
He said, while there were areas where consolidation could be considered, such as merging the village and town courts, other areas like police and highway presented more obstacles.
“Many services are already shared. You have a lot of great things. Things that are obvious are already done,” he said, citing areas such as joint funding of the Massena Recreation Commission and Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena.
Mr. Gardner said there were “key distinctions” between the town and village that made dissolution of the village difficult.
For instance, he said, the police issue would need to be addressed. The current police department is responsible for protection within the village limits only, while the state police and St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office handle the town outside the village.
If the police department expanded to cover the entire town, it would cost more than $3 million, plus startup costs, Mr. Gardner said.
“What is clear from these data is that expanding the Village of Massena Police Department to the entire town of Massena... would take an appreciable expansion of resources,” the draft report said.
Another issue would be the distinct differences between the village’s Department of Public Works and the town of Massena Highway Department, Mr. Gardner said.
“They have different functions as villages and towns have different needs,” he said.
Councilman Samuel D. Carbone Jr. pointed out some of the differences that had been examined in the past. They include the highway department using a different sand and salt mix than the village because of the services it provides to the county and state.
“The other issue is I believe both DPW and our highway have totally different positions and totally different services they provide,” Mr. Carbone said.
That includes the management of the Massena International Airport by Highway Superintendent Frank Diagostino, “which is a job in itself,” he said.
Combining all of the services provided by both departments and putting them under one administrator would be the equivalent of one person doing the job of two or three people, Mr. Carbone said.
Having one administrator leading both the town and village governments after consolidation would present a similar problem, Mr. Gardner said. He pointed out that the town is responsible for areas such as the Massena International Airport, Massena Memorial Hospital, Massena Electric Department, Massena Rescue Squad, Massena Public Library and Celine G. Philibert Memorial Cultural Centre and Museum.
“These are two large and well-functioning municipalities,” he said.
Mr. Gardner said the combined salaries of Mayor Timmy J. Currier and Town Supervisor Steven D. O’Shaughnessy totaled $32,000, despite having a full-time workload in a part-time job.
“Regardless of the structure of the merged entity, the community should be spending more, not less, on executive leadership. Merger should not be a source of savings from these positions. There is an argument that would view merger as a way of better functioning executive leadership by allowing the broader Massena community to pool resources to compensate a full-time executive, which will likely well exceed the combined pay for the two positions today,” the draft report said.
“We did have an administrator at one time. It didn’t work out that well. Getting the right person would be a task in and of itself. My feeling looking at it right now... is the guy better have an ‘S” on his chest because he’s going to need it,” Deputy Supervisor Albert Nicola said.