December 6, 2021

Chiefs: Transpro report not worth cost

Cortland County Seal

A $127,000 strategic assessment of Cortland County’s government operations found nothing new, two department heads said Wednesday, a day after the county released the report.

“Nothing is new in this report and this is what frustrates me as a taxpayer,” said Highway Superintendent Charlie Sudbrink, a former legislator. “It just reinforces what the Legislature already knew but didn’t act upon.”

Florida-based Transpro Consulting was hired in April to help revamp county government to save money, deliver quality services and make sure the county work force is engaged, with the goal of being the most affordable county in the state.

During a presentation in August, the company said Cortland County could save almost $1 million in one year and more than $5.7 million over five years if it reforms 12 areas of the county budget.

The report listed a number of actions the county could take and also included findings of it’s community survey.

For the highway department, the company suggested the county look at raising the landfill tipping fee by $10 per ton. It recommended the sheriff’s department leave positions vacant.

It also suggests:

  • The county consider outsourcing early intervention services, which help identify and assist children at risk of developmental problems.
  • Consolidating preparation of meals for the county’s senior centers.
  • Reconsidering its contribution to retirees’ health-care coverage.

Although Sudbrink has yet to receive the final report, he said parts of the assessment and the community survey the consultants presented in the draft report didn’t make sense.

The community survey found that “good job opportunities are 42% more important than well-maintained county roads to improve satisfaction,” states the report.

“What resident in Cortland County wouldn’t want a better paying job? That was a gimme question,” Sudbrink said.

The report also indicated that only 33% of residents surveyed were satisfied with services at the county landfill and recycling center.

“A very small percentage of people in this county deal with the landfill or the recycling center because they deal with a private hauler,” Sudbrink said. “That recycling center has never been that clean or kept up as nice. I’m not just saying that because that’s my employees down there. We got a couple of really good working men down there.”

The report also indicated the county should look at raising the tipping fee up to $10 per ton, something Sudbrink had discussed during a Highway and Solid Waste Committee meeting to cover costs at the recycling facility and even look at starting recycling programs for lightbulbs and mattresses, to be paid for using the proposed $10 raise in the tipping fee.

“We really do need to raise the tipping fees, or else it won’t be self-sufficient and it (the money) will come out of the general fund,” Sudbrink said.

Sheriff Mark Helms raised concerns over inaccuracies in the company’s report. He noted the report lists six counties it compared Cortland to: Genesee, Tioga, Columbia, Allegany, Chenango and Livingston. However, Helms points out that graphs in the report use Madison instead of Columbia.

Helms also said the comparison between Cortland County and the other peer counties doesn’t work well because sheriffs’ departments operate differently. For example, Helms said, Alleghany County doesn’t have a road patrol, but Cortland does. Others provide court security, but Cortland doesn’t. And Cortland provides security at the County Office Building, which other departments don’t.

“With sheriffs’ offices it’s very easy to compare apples to oranges, it’s not easy to compare apples to apples unless you ask what the apple is,” he said.

While Helms understands why the county wanted to look into this, he said: “I don’t think they got what they paid for.”