In an era of declining municipal revenues and rising fixed costs, the importance of effectively managing the delivery of municipal services cannot be overstated. This is especially true of highway services, which encompass both significant human capital resources and a vast array of costly specialty equipment, all requiring skilled management in order to effectively meet the transportation needs of residents and business owners. Municipalities have a vested interest in maintaining their expansive transportation network. It is well known that highway services are primarily the most costly of town services. Escalating costs of fuel and construction materials are also contributing factors to the tremendous growth in the cost to maintain local roads and highways.
These factors and others have driven upstate New York municipalities to look within their operations to see where potential savings and improved efficiencies could occur through shared highway services or consolidation of services among neighboring municipalities. New York State is a driving force behind this effort, as well as with the advent of the Shared Municipal Services Incentive Grant Program, and its successor, the Local Government Efficiency (LGE) Program, which both provide incentives to local governments for identifying cost savings solutions, through intermunicipal cooperation, consolidation, dissolution and/or regional service delivery of certain municipal functions. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the bellowing cost of highway services. Over the past decade or so, the results of a variety of municipal service efficiency studies, (i.e., highway services, police and general government functions), have proven that there is no one-size-fit all model to solve the problem of rising costs of municipal services. There is also an assortment of common challenges, road-blocks so to speak, that point to the need for increased flexibility when attempting to implement change to the way services are delivered by local governments. These challenges are both locally unique and similar statewide, and require creative thinking and an open political mind to solve. To illustrate a unique model for highway services delivery, this article will use the Chemung County Highway Services Study as a case study. 1 Chemung County and its municipalities have been actively pursuing shared highway services opportunities for many years. Efforts have been underway since the early 1990s to grapple with the myriad of issues arising from the need to maintain the complex network of roads and highways throughout the county.