When it comes to the state bureaucracy, one hates to say more paperwork is the answer. But that seems true of a problem in Schoharie and Delaware counties, where the Department of State has just eliminated grants for towns in the New York City watershed that use their county planning departments as consultants. The relationship between towns and county planning agencies is in everyone’s best interest, including the state’s, and the state should be careful not to discourage it.
Most of the watershed towns are so small they don’t have their own planning departments, so they contract with the county for services on an annual basis. But they have also been eligible for state grants when they hire county planning departments to work on particular projects in the watershed. At least they were eligible, until the state cut them off.
The Schoharie County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution last week asking the state to reconsider, and it should. Without the county planning assistance, the towns will be forced to turn to private engineers and consultants, whose fees they could still get reimbursement for from the state. The trouble with that is these outsiders are not only likely to be more expensive than the county planning agencies, which can work at cost, they are also likely to be less knowledgeable about the area.
That is not to say the state’s concerns about wasted money are necessarily invalid. Some of its grants may be going for non-watershed projects, or the counties may be double-dipping (getting paid twice for the same work, once as part of their regular contract with the towns, once from the state). But the answer isn’t to eliminate the grants altogether. It is to make the towns demonstrate that they are being used properly.