Eschew politics as usual in favor of facts

To the Editor:

A core policy issue facing the town of Berne is the question of the proposed Highway Consolidation Feasibility Study, as pointed out in recent letters from Emily Vincent (on Aug. 31) and Sean Lyons (on Aug. 10 and 17).

Ms. Vincent’s letter reflected serious fact-finding and was most informative on the content and implications of this proposal, while Mr. Lyons seemed to be more interested in striking a politically partisan and factually-limited note.

From reading the proposal found in the summer issue of the Town of Berne Courier, which all residents receive, and from a couple of conversations with our neighbors, I see that:

— 1. The town of Berne employees who now maintain the roads in Berne would continue to maintain those same roads. (I know that the state and county highway departments already maintain their roads that run through Berne, which are separate from the town-maintained  roads.);

— 2. No full-time employees would lose their jobs, pay, or benefits;

— 3. One unified public-works department is likely to be more efficient than two serving the same geographic area, but this is what the study is designed to determine and to see how accurate the Rockefeller Institute’s positive draft proposal turns out to be;

— 4. The proposal is aimed at achieving smart — cost-effective and efficient — public administration. It is not aimed at reducing services, jobs, or benefits;

— 5. The consolidation, if approved by the town’s stakeholders, could provide significant property tax relief in the range of 20 percent or more;

— 6. Such tax reduction would come on the heels of four straight years of property tax cuts in Berne, including the 3-percent tax cut in 2017 while continuing to make improvements in town services; and

— 7. The consolidation study and its final approval would involve public meetings and a final town-wide vote by the residents for it to be approved or disapproved before implementing.

As Ms. Vincent so aptly pointed out in her letter to the Enterprise editor last week, which merits repeating, “I understand that shared services may have downsides, including some perceived loss of local control and fear of the unknown; however, the benefits seem to far outweigh these concerns ...

“By merging these services and administrative units, economies of scale and cost savings are expected (Feulner, Hautie, and Walsh, 2005). I look forward to seeing a future line-by-line cost-saving comparison from the Rockefeller Institute’s Study.

“The town of Berne will be able to share equipment and technical expertise realized on a regional level. Town road issues will decrease while consistency and predictability will increase due to centrally managed resources.

“Additionally, the quality of work will increase due to greater resources (like engineering), materials, and equipment availability. Our municipality will have greater purchasing power, enabling it to negotiate better material and equipment purchases at reduced costs.”

In contrast, Mr. Lyons’s letters struck me as less a concern for the specifics of sound public administration and educating his readers and more of the negative politics we are all far too familiar with. Muted, but quite clear, attacks with selected facts, vague, unproven assertions and promises to act only on the people’s will and not his own. In other words, politics as usual.

Victor Porlier

East Berne

 

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