A real plan for the town

We now know there is at least one Planning Board that is seriously living up to its name.

Last month, Hanover member Peter Gibson issued a reality check at a meeting where that rarely happens across the county. Gibson spoke of the town’s population loss over the last 20 years, which equates to about 15 to 20 percent.

Currently, about 7,100 residents live in the town. “We need to think about consolidating services … eliminating some of the bureaucracy,” said the Planning Board member. “If we keep losing population, we have got to make changes. If it is not working, we have to find a way to make it work.”

Hanover, fortunately, has seen some changes for the better when it comes to regional initiatives. Silver Creek and the town’s Department of Public Works are reportedly working well together during the trying winter times and the village recently eliminated its Police Department and had the county Sheriff’s Department take over patrols and law enforcement.

Where Hanover is at a loss with its sharing – and it’s no surprise – is in the village of Forestville. Despite an effort to dissolve a chaotic and unorganized village, residents got their dander up enough to put an end to any constructive approach. Their reward is a $250,000 bill that has come due very soon and could bankrupt the village.

Why Gibson’s comment also is so refreshing is that for too many area Planning Boards, its focus is on the status quo by doing a strategic or comprehensive plan. Those usually keep the shrinking municipality as it is without any sacrifices.

Hanover is at least looking at the big picture. The town is not growing, so why not consider real solutions?

At least it is more aggressive than Chautauqua County’s 2020 plan. While consolidations and sharing of services are mentioned, it is not a priority. Instead, that document focuses on a number of positive items that make up our diverse county.

Let’s celebrate those items, but let’s not be blind to the major impediments of the too many layers of government in this region.

For that, we say thank you to Mr. Gibson. You are looking at your position in a way many elected and appointed officials would rather ignore.