While there has always been chatter about merging the Town of Southeast and Village of Brewster into one municipality, a study meant to examine that combination was shot down by village officials last week.
Brought forward by Southeast Councilman Eric Larca last Wednesday during a village trustees meeting, the feasibility study would have examined if it was worth combining the two local governments into one, but village trustees said they didn’t have enough information to agree to apply for the grant before its July 26 deadline. While one grant would be to study consolidating the two governments, the other possible grant would have been to explore shared service opportunities and combine certain departments between Brewster and Southeast.
While the town could’ve applied for the grant without the village’s blessing, the more municipalities on board means more funding for the study. The proposal was not discussed during a town board meeting.
“It’s just a study, I really wish they would’ve moved forward,” Larca said. “It’s just an analysis, where it says maybe there’s nothing, maybe there’s something.”
Larca said he plans on bringing this grant up again next year and will go back to the village to request they sign on. He said there is “so much to be gained” by the two governments working more together and possibly consolidating completely.
“Let’s rip the Band-Aid off, look at everything and see what the result is,” Larca, who noted he would never want the Village of Brewster to lose its identify, said. “I’d be for combining if it made financial sense and if were going to improve the community and provide more to the community.”
He stressed this would not be a “takeover” of the village.
But Brewster officials weren’t as enthusiastic, with Mayor James Schoenig stating the village did not have enough information to apply for this grant with
Southeast, including how long the study would take and the total costs associated with it. It is also unclear if the town would take over the village or if the village would take over the town, Schoenig said.
Schoenig also felt with the village on the precipice of its revitalization project, it would not be wise to pursue the study. The hope is to have a shovel in the ground in the next year, he said.
Schoenig said if a developer wanted to invest in the village and saw there was a possible merger, it might make that person rethink their interest. Schoenig said he’s heard from developers and investors that Southeast government is not business friendly right now, which could discourage them from coming to Brewster if there was a chance Southeast government could take over the village.
“For us to even consider a merger would not be in the best interest of the village and not in the best interest of the developers,” Schoenig said. “This really isn’t the best time to do this.”
Still, he would be open to more shared services if it saved money for both governments.
“This has been kicked around for years and it’s gotten ugly,” Schoenig said of past talks of a merger. “The town and the village should work together.”