Efforts to get a better look at what consolidation of the city and town might look like is moving forward with the award of a $49,500 Government Efficiency Grant from the state.
City Manager Jason Molino said that the city has not yet received official notification of the grant, but once it does, city and town officials will meet to discuss the next steps.
According to a prior agreement between the city and town, officials must appoint, within 30 days of funding, an interview committee charged with recommending members for a Consolidation Charter Task Force.
Once a charter is written, the city and town will need to seek legislation in Albany to allow a referendum vote in both jurisdictions.
Molino said it's still the feeling in the city that consolidation is "worth looking at."
"That's been the mentality of everybody involved in the process," Molino said. "The mentality has been we have a chance to be handed a clean sheet of paper, so let's understand what can be put on that piece of paper."
The funding for moving forward with consolidation comes just a week after voters in the villages of Sloan and Williamsville in Erie County overwhelming rejected dissolution initiatives -- part of a statewide effort to, at least in theory, reduce the size of government.
Molino said he doesn't know why voters rejected dissolution, but he suspects a lack of information had a lot to do with it.
One of the flaws of the dissolution legislation, Molino said, is that it doesn't require any study or planning. Voters in towns and villages (the legislation doesn't apply to cities) aren't exactly told what will come next if their local government is dissolved.
"There was no plan in place," Molino said. "Whatever you do, whether it's put in sewers or sidewalks, you have to have a good plan in place in order to understand what you're getting into. That's true for dissolution or consolidation, too."
While conventional wisdom around the county is that residents in the Town of Batavia will never agree to consolidation, Molino said the only thing to do is develop a plan, educate the public and let the voters vote.
"It's not my job to predict how voters will react," Molino said.
The interview committee will consist of the city council president and two council members as well as the town supervisor and two town board members. The committee will select eight charter task force members -- four from the city, four from the town -- and each member must be unanimously approved by the selection committee.
Charter task for members cannot be a city or town elected official, a member of planning or zoning boards, an employee of the city or town, and spouse of any such person.
The task force will be asked to submit a draft charter by July 30, 2011 and a final proposed charter by Dec. 31, 2011.
UPDATE 5:15 p.m.: We were finally able to talk with Town Supervisor Greg Post today. Post echoed Molino's "clean sheet of paper" remarks.
"I’m interested in seeing what a new charter looks like," Post said. "That’s been my interest from day one. This is the first opportunity in my experience, and probably in more than 100 years, where a group of citizens from the local smallest entity there is can collaborate on a new charter."