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Ossining Restructuring Study Raises Concerns

OSSINING, N.Y. – Residents of Ossining and Briarcliff asked questions and expressed concerns on Thursday night about how the process will work as a study on alternate government structures is completed.

"What is the role of the steering committee?" Rocco Ciocosta asked Joseph Stefko, a director of public finance at the Center for Government Research consulting company, at a public meeting at the Joseph G. Caputo Community Center.

Ossining municipalities are considering restructuring government and consolidating services are potential ways to provide residents with the same services but at a lower cost to taxpayers. They received a $45,000 grant from the state Department of High Priority Planning about a year ago to study various options.

CGR was chosen in July to study the various forms of government that could work for the village and town of Ossining, including a town/village merger, dissolving the village, having the village annex the town, forming a city, or staying with the current structure but with more shared services.

When Stefko responded to Ciocosta that the steering committee, which is made up of members of the village and town boards, acts as a liaison to the community and facilitator in scheduling site visits to collect data, Ciocosta said he is concerned about a potential bias in the study.

"The steering committee is the same group of people who will be voting for options at some point," he noted.

Ossining Superintendent of Highways Michael O'Connor questioned why he as an elected official is not on the steering committee that will ultimately make decisions.

"'Steering committee' is an appropriate term because they have their hand on the wheel and they're going to make this thing go the way they want it to go," O'Connor said. "What scares me is that you do the analysis and these ten people make the decisions."

Stefko said CGR is now in the first phase of its study which involves collecting baseline data on what services are provided by the village and town of Ossining, and how much the services cost. To keep the public in the loop during the course of the study, a number of public meetings will take place, and a website, www.cgr.org/ossining, will serve as a center of information for data collected, options presented and meetings scheduled.

"We see our role as informants, informing your discussion as objectively as possible," Stefko said. "We don't come into this with any preconceived notion that there is one right answer."

Stefko said CGR plans to take six or seven months to do the study, and the company will charge a fixed price of $53,100.

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