QUEENSBURY — Warren County officials are hoping to expand the county’s “consolidated purchasing” program, which saved municipalities nearly $130,000 last year, to include as many fire departments as possible and potentially share professional services as well.
The county Board of Supervisors and Purchasing Department has coordinated a program that allows the county, its towns, the city of Glens Falls and village of Lake George to combine purchasing power to save money.
Julie Butler, the county’s purchasing agent, said she would like to include as many fire departments as possible in the program, to get them involved in the savings and to increase the savings for others.
“One of my goals for this year is to further branch into the fire districts,” she said.
State law appears to limit participation to taxpayer-funded “fire districts,” however, and not fire companies or rescue squads that contract with towns, said Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty, the county’s acting administrator.
Geraghty, who has been a president of the Warrensburg Fire Co., said districts are considered “government entities” because they are funded through taxing districts.
Geraghty said there appear to be six fire districts in the county that could take part in the purchasing program, including Warrensburg, Chestertown, Pottersville, Bolton, North Creek and Van Rhodes in Lake Luzerne.
“We (Warrensburg) could take part in it but we haven’t tried it, because we really don’t buy a lot,” Geraghty said.
Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Doug Beaty, who chairs the county board’s Shared Services Committee, said he would also like to see efforts to get municipalities to share professional services, like engineering services for public projects. Queensbury Supervisor John Strough and Glens Falls 1st Ward Supervisor Jack Diamond, the former Glens Falls mayor, said that seems possible.
Butler said the goal in the first year of the shared purchasing program was to save about $27,000, and that figure was more than quadrupled.
She said about $32,000 of the savings comes from office supplies, but municipalities can work together in many other areas. Beaty said he hoped that new supervisors on the board will involve their towns.
“There are other opportunities, but I need input from the towns,” Butler said.
GLENS FALLS — On Monday morning, Kim Sopczyk told a roomful of people about something that had just happened: The agency she runs, the Family Service Association in Glens Falls, had loaned a woman $350 for towing and repairs, so she could keep her car on the road.
But that sort of assistance is a temporary solution to a large-scale problem, she said.
“It just keeps them out of homelessness. For some people, one unexpected bill could put them into homelessness. … It’s hard to think about walking in other people’s shoes, but it’s true,” she said.
The community workshop on homelessness was held Monday in Crandall Public Library.
Sopczyk and more than 50 other concerned community members, social workers, Rotary Club members, Planned Parenthood staff, other organization staff, police officers, physicians and more gathered to continue the conversation on homelessness.
Monday’s discussion was driven by the Saratoga-North Country Continuum of Care program, designed to promote community-wide commitment to ending homelessness.
“We can talk about a plan with our group of 10 people, but to hear all these people’s ideas from all walks of life offers new perspectives and is much more helpful,” said John Farrell from Warren-Washington County Association for Mental Health.
Youth and family homelessness, chronic homelessness, increased connection to services and transportation were the topics that were fleshed out.
Participants broke up into four groups and brainstormed ideas on their topic for 15 minutes. Then they’d move to the next station to discuss the next topic.
A lack of affordable housing was seen as a contributing factor to youth and family homelessness, but it was suggested a solution might be found by turning the large population of repossessed homes in the area into low-income housing.
An employee of the Washington County Department of Social Services suggested people who work for social service agencies should use the bus system so they can learn how hard it can be for clients who have to rely on public transportation.
“Everybody who is homeless is also potentially chronically homeless,” said Mike Finocchi with Shelters of Saratoga, which works to end homelessness in the Saratoga region.
On Thursday, the “point in time” report for 2017 will be released. The report counts the number of homeless people in various communities at a certain point in time. It is conducted during the winter because many homeless people live outside during the summer and are harder to find.
The count takes into account homeless persons living in emergency shelters, transitional housing and on the streets.
“None of us are experts on this. ... We all work in our certain fields that deal with homelessness. We wish there was one answer to solve it, but there isn’t,” Farrell said.
“But with the information we gathered today, we can make a plan. It’s a start to moving forward.”
Continuum of Care holds a meeting on the first Tuesday of the month at 230 Maple St. in Glens Falls.