City And Towns, The Saga Continues ...
Published: December 7th, 2007
By: Richard Snyder

City and towns, the saga continues ...

OK here’s the deal. You can have five different flavored scoops of ice cream and the cost would be $1,700 – or you can have one scoop of ice cream and the cost would be $60,000. And ... if you like that one scoop of ice cream, next year you can have one of the other five flavors for another $60,000.

 The ice cream analogy is pretty close to what happened at a meeting held two days ago between the Town of Norwich, the Town of North Norwich, and the City of Norwich. At the urging of many people, including me, the Mayor of Norwich once again presented the opportunity for all municipalities to join in a study that the state would finance to the tune of 90 percent, to look at “Merger, Consolidation, or Shared Services.” Just a couple of weeks ago the prospects of participation by the towns in this study was DOA because the word “merger” was in the previous wording. 

 With a new set of words, the mayor approached town representatives with a second opportunity to participate in this study, not even mentioning the word “merger,” but to use the study to look at how major services such as water, sewer, sanitation, police, fire, EMT, and highway services are currently provided in the city and towns. And according to the outline of the state initiative, this study would “develop impact analysis that must provide a reasonable quantification of savings opportunities.” In short, let’s study all areas mentioned above and see if there are any reasonable savings out there for us to explore. 

But, the Town of Norwich came programmed to only talk about the formation of a fire district. In their words, we’ve already voted no to the state’s initiative and to their grant money. The town does not want to look in any manner at a much more significant study. They are only willing to go ahead and use taxpayer’s money to fund a study in one narrow area. (And in an area that has been studied fairly recently.) Why? Your guess is as good as mine and my guess is because they don’t trust the state, could care less about helping the city, and in some way are concerned about losing their positions. The Town of Norwich would rather spend in the area of $60,000 to study only what they want, than to spend less than $1,700 to study fire, (which is what they want), water, sewer, sanitation, police, EMT, and highway services. It was even suggested by a town board member that if the fire district study went OK then we could now move ahead with another study for sewer and water districts – probably at another cost of $60,000. And I don’t want to only comment on the actions of the Town of Norwich – the Town of North Norwich supervisor was equally happy to let the Town of Norwich take the lead in shooting down their potential participation and even wondered out loud why he was even there.

 We deserve so much more from our representatives than sticking to the same rhetoric that has contributed to the losses we have faced over the past few decades.  As outlined by the Mayor of Norwich, all municipalities would share equally in hiring the outside consultant, (again all the Town of Norwich was asked to come up with was less than $2,000 and the Town of North Norwich would come up with even less), they would all share equally in providing any information that was needed, they would all share equally in receiving the results of this study, and they would all be at a table together deciding if they wanted to pursue any of the results of the study. NO INDIVIDUAL, TOWN, or CITY has to do anything with the findings – but it may provide all of residents with valuable information to help us make better decisions in the decades ahead.

 If these town board members were doctors, they would be stuck using technology and knowledge from 30 years ago and you as a patient would be dead.  I am disappointed by the lack of vision displayed by the Town of North Norwich representative where I live, and by the Town of Norwich representatives where I lived for 20 years. Not because they are supposed to step in line with my way of thinking, that’s ridiculous. But I do think they have the duty, as our “leaders,” to look at all possible ways to make this a better place to live for all residents.  Again all that was asked was to participate in a study.

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 Remember we are vowing in blood never to use the word “merger” again, so let’s get past that. (I am also disappointed that we have to eliminate certain words from our vocabulary). The state will help with the grant up to 90 percent to fund this multifaceted study. I think it is time to get past the anti-state and anti-city rhetoric that we have heard for decades and make decisions based on what we need to do right now. As far as I’m concerned the state is doing what we have asked them to do for years – help us look at ourselves and plan for the decades ahead. (Even with the state funding 90 percent, one town official proclaimed that they ((the state)) should pay 100 percent of the study.) I promise you that if it wasn’t already too late and I could find the town the $1,700, they would still not participate even in a free study.

 No matter where you live in the county, if you sincerely believe that everything is great then just consider me an idiot and ignore everything I have said. But for those of you who have lived here for many years, you might be just as concerned as I am about what has happened to the employment base in this county and the lack of positive prospects for the future. What jumped into my mind during this meeting was that the same individual board members who refused to look past their own property assessments are also the same individuals who sit as supervisors at the county level.    

 Wake up! Jobs at Wal-Mart or Lowes are fine jobs and I am thankful for them, but when I moved here in the 70s we had Norwich Shoe, Champion Mill, Bennett Ireland, Morton-Norwich (now P&G), Victory Markets, Norwich Manufacturing, and many others. And the loss of those jobs has greatly hurt our area.  I’m not holding our government leaders solely responsible for this, but exactly what have you done in the past and what are you doing about it now?

 Some of the loss of those companies was because of the difficulty they had in recruiting employees to move to this area. In fact many of us have had children who can’t stay here because they don’t feel they could find suitable work or the area is just too depressed. And I mean the Norwich area as a whole, including the city and the towns. You don’t drive down Lower Lake Road and say that this is the area for me. You drove through the City of Norwich first and saw what the city had to offer. If you didn’t like it you just keep moving. The job of a town board member, a city council member, or a county supervisor is much more than protecting their own interest, it is to look to the future and to help us find the best way to survive. 

 I know that there are a few residents within the towns who called their representatives and said what they are doing is great and they want nothing to do with “bailing out the city.” And in that regards, and perhaps from your point of view, your board members are doing the right thing.  But is the right thing to encourage them to buy one scoop of ice cream for $60,000 (maybe two for $120,000) or would the right thing have been to pay $1,700 just to see if there were a better way to share in fire, sewer, water, sanitation, police, EMT, and highway services? We all must encourage our representatives to open their minds and at least listen to the possibilities. You don’t know what you don’t know ... you may     just think you do. We can do better.