Double-edged sword with sharing

Within the last month, our region has seen success in sharing services when it comes to education. As many readers already know, the Chautauqua Lake Central School and Ripley Central School districts are in the beginning stages of a new partnership.

Ripley students in grades seven to 12 are being tuitioned to Chautauqua Lake where they are finding a top-notch facility that offers a number of courses and programs, which is unlike their previous educational environment.

It was never the fault of the students or the Ripley Board of Education. It came down to numbers.

No school the size of Ripley with a total enrollment of 320 can offer their students the same type of education a student in a district of 1,400 students – the size of Southwestern or Fredonia – receives.

Sharing services, in this instance, is a win for both Chautauqua Lake and Ripley.

Municipal sharing, however, is a different story. It is usually met with disdain and an avalanche of territorial issues, especially during snowplow season

If one is to look to Sherman, a town of 1,700 residents, you would think one highway department would be enough. That, regrettably, is not the case.

You need one department from the village, one from the town, one from the county and a little help from the state. Four separate departments for less than 1,700 residents.

Ineffective? Not really. Inefficient? Absolutely.

Why would so many different entities be needed for one town that small? You could ask the same question of any Western New York town, village or city.

This week, a group of residents in the village of Fredonia approached its board due to the lack of progress being made on construction-riddled Holmes Place and Bryant Place. Those residents have every right to be upset.

“Will (the work) be done correctly? Will it be paved? And when?” one resident asked on Monday evening. “I don’t want to see village vehicles do their turnaround anymore in that empty lot either because that’s what they do now since it’s empty and a dust bowl. (The village has its) spot on Eagle Street. That mess down there is your spot to put your village dumping stuff. Not my street, where I pay $6,000 in taxes to look at a lot full of crap.”

As part of finding a solution for the problem, village Mayor Stephen Keefe is contacting the county for help.

Here we go again.

The last time the county helped out the village was during the week of Aug. 19 when it assisted in the oiling and stoning of Central Avenue as well as other nearby streets. It was not an opportune time considering traffic was going to be heavy that weekend due to the Farm Festival and the return of students to Fredonia State.

That did not deter the county, which did it on their time.

“The problem is it’s a shared service. When the county can do it, we have to have it done,” Keefe said at a village meeting last month. “The county had their equipment ready, they brought it and you got to make streets when you can make streets.”

Schools, which have made major sacrifices over the years by decreasing staff numbers and closing under-used buildings, understand the need to share as much as possible. With enrollments still declining, combined sports teams are not just a fad, those are here to stay.

Municipalities, on the other hand, make sharing of services inconvenient and a struggle. Those stubborn ways, however, benefit the status quo of a costly agenda when talks of efficiency and consolidation are on the table.

Keefe is right. Shared services are a “problem.” And not enough local or county officials are doing anything to fix it.

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.