New York State wants municipalities to share services and it’s offering $20 million to do it. Chemung County and the City of Elmira had planned to apply for the funds, but that has now changed.
The two municipalities already share a lot of services, so they felt they had a good shot at winning the $20 million. They informally agreed to apply for the money, but city leaders had second thoughts. They were worried they’d have to dissolve and the state language on that wasn’t clear. That led to a late January vote in which the Elmira City Council said "no" to sending in the application.
“We may have had a different outcome if we could’ve gotten some more of the facts and some more questions answered," said Elmira Mayor Dan Mandell. "They just weren’t certain, they weren’t sure.”
Mandell was in favor of applying for the money, but said he had to respect the council's decision.
Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli was "shocked" the council backed out, especially with Elmira having problems balancing its budget. He agreed it wasn’t clear whether or not the city would have to dissolve. Still, he said it could’ve applied and backed out later.
“They didn’t want to take the risk," Santulli said. "I don’t understand why you would not want to take the risk, because if we did get the money and the governor or the state said ‘look, you have to dissolve,' we can just say ‘we’re not interested.'”
For the city council, it wasn’t worth going through the time and effort to set up a plan and then have to pull out later.
Santulli said Chemung County will continue to look for ways to share services with Elmira and other municipalities without the state’s $20 million.