Ulster County's money-saving highway program: A model for New York State?

New York State comptroller Thomas DiNapoli paid Kingston a visit yesterday to congratulate Ulster County on saving its taxpayers money, thanks to its new shared-services program between town and county highway departments. From the Daily Freeman:

State taxpayers could save $40 million to $90 million per year if more local governments followed the shared highway maintenance model set by Ulster County and a handful of municipalities, New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli estimated on Wednesday.

DiNapoli was referring to an arrangement reached last year between County Executive Michael Hein and the towns of Shandaken, Gardiner, Woodstock, Saugerties and New Paltz under which the towns agreed to provide winter snow removal and light summer maintenance to portions of county roads within the town’s borders. The county and town of Hardenburgh have had a similar arrangement for several years.

Last month, Hein visited a town meeting in Hardenburgh -- the first town to test-drive the pilot program -- and talked about how hiring town highway departments to maintain county roads was saving Ulster County money.

In the video above, which we took at the meeting, Hein describes the lunacy of how the system worked before the county started sharing highway services with towns:

"There's a lot of places in Ulster County where people would follow the snowplow -- it's plowing like heck, and all of a sudden, it just lifts the blade up. And it's driving over completely unplowed roads. Because it, quote-unquote, wasn't their road.

...To me, that is the worst kind of bureaucracy. It's government at its worst."

(In the video, in which Hein talks more generally about reforms on the county level, the part about the shared highway services begins around the 2:30 mark.)