Members of the Mamaroneck Town Board reacted this week to a report from the Tri-Municipal Shared Service/Consolidation Study Group. The group made seven major recommendations, including: the creation of a joint Mamaroneck Town-Larchmont Village detective unit that could save as much as $450,000; a possible merger between the Mamaroneck Town and Larchmont Village fire departments; and a tri-municipal assessor’s office with functions outsourced to the private sector.
Comments were generally positive at the board’s public meeting on Wednesday, March 17. Reaction was mixed, however, at the earlier untelevized work session. There was general concern about the scope of the report – which specifically did not address the issue of “whole sale merger” of municipalities. On the other hand, there was criticism that the report was too specific in naming individuals who might carry out particular initiatives.
Councilman David Fishman, who was a member of the study group, defended the report as an incremental step. The group aimed to “succeed at small steps, and then move to bigger steps.” He noted, “Full merger won’t happen now.”
Praise for Hard Work
At the public meeting, Supervisor Valerie O’Keeffe recognized the hard work of the study group, its chair, Bill Dentzer, and the two representatives from Mamaroneck Town, Mr. Fishman and Maureen Feerick LeBlanc. The group had been working for almost a year before issuing its report this month.
The supervisor praised the study as being “very elegantly written, very well-phrased,” and said her board will “continue to mull” it over and will get together with the Village of Larchmont and the Village of Mamaroneck.
But at the Work Session?
At the work session, however, a number of issues surfaced.
One criticism was that the report – though well-written – seemed slanted towards a Village of Larchmont view of the issues.
Councilman Fishman defended the report as “not biased” but rather focused on “what’s best for the tri-municipal area.” While he conceded that the many of the recommendations for shared services did not include the Village of Mamaroneck, he said this was because participation was opposed by that municipality’s elected officials.
Board members also were concerned with how best to proceed with the study’s recommendations for the police and fire departments.
While Councilman Ernie Odierna liked the suggestion of combining the detective forces, Councilwoman Phyllis Wittner felt the “most inflammatory part of the report was the naming of people.” The study recommends that Larchmont Police Chief John Poleway supervise the detectives and suggests a possible merger of Larchmont and Mamaroneck Town fire departments under Mamaroneck Fire Chief Sean McCarthy, a volunteer.
Ms. Wittner said “ it was not in the purview of the committee to name specific individuals, and further they did not have sufficient information to do so.” Supervisor O’Keeffe said officials needed to talk to the police and fire departments before making statements on their proposed reorganization to the public. Mr. Odierna suggested that various departments be invited to discuss the recommendations with the board.
Councilman Fishman cautioned, however, that such discussions rarely result in reductions in force, since “employees always say this is what we need.”
Town Clerk Christine Battalia noted that consolidation alone would not necessarily result in savings unless there is a diminution in the total number of employees.
Supervisor O’Keeffe took issue with the study recommendation that the Mamaroneck Town Clerk award parking spaces in both the Larchmont Village and Mamaroneck Town lots. She said this might result in Mamaroneck Village residents obtaining spots in the Larchmont lot. In addition, this might mean that town-wide funds would be used to pay for services that are only for Larchmont residents.
More positively, there was general agreement among the board members that it was a good idea to combine recreation activities across the three municipalities, as suggested in the report. However, there were some questions as to whether it was better to have this reviewed by the current committee heads rather than follow the recommendation to establish a new committee to work on combining activities.
Town Administrator Steve Altieri said the best way to handle recreational offerings might be to determine how, who, where and when a particular activity should be run and then consolidate the organization and administration of this activity under one of the governmental entities.
Board members appeared in agreement that before making any determinations on the report’s recommendations, there should be an opportunity for public comment and further discussion with the various departments highlighted in the report and with the other municipalities involved.