Five villages in North Hempstead are planning to share one arborist as a way to cut costs and adhere to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s statewide shared-services plan.
Specifics of the plan aren’t finalized, but Plandome Manor, Plandome Heights, Flower Hill, Baxter Estates and Plandome plan to sign an annual contract with one arborist. The arborist would be the on-call tree expert for each village, but not a full-time employee.
Plandome Manor Mayor Barbara Donno said the plan is in its infancy and that the group of villages still needs to interview arborists, determine how they will split the arborist’s fees, then sign an agreement among the villages and arborist.
There’s no set timeline on when the villages want someone in place.
“Some villages will be using the arborist at a greater capacity than others,” Donno said. “But all of this we are discussing will save our residents’ money.”
Plandome Clerk Elizabeth Kaye said her village could save up to $2,000 when sharing an arborist, even though that figure is a rough estimate at best. Other villages did not provide savings estimates.
“It’s hard to know the exact savings until we actually make that switch,” Kaye said.
Mayors from each village have met on the plan, and one strong candidate for the job appears to be Rich Gibney, the current arborist for Flower Hill.
Plandome Heights Mayor Kenneth Riscica said the premise behind having one arborist is that each village will get a cheaper rate for tree consultation.
“The idea has merit and I think the arborist we’re looking at is a quality arborist,” he said.
The mayors said they believe one arborist can handle tree work in five North Hempstead Town villages because each municipality doesn’t use the arborist very often.
“I use an arborist three to five days a year, so I think one can handle it,” Riscica said.
Arborists are experts at evaluating tree health. Typically, a village signs a contract with an arborist who will work at a per-visit rate. Currently, each of the five villages has its own arborist who charges roughly $150 per visit.
A shared arborist is one of many shared-services plans being floated among municipalities aimed at saving money and reducing property taxes. Other villages in North Hempstead have cost-saving plans, including sharing catch-basin cleaning services or gas purchasing costs for police and fire vehicles.
The ideas stem from Cuomo’s push and a new state law signed in May that requires county and local officials to devise a plan to eliminate duplicative services, coordinate purchases and reduce back-office administrative costs. Municipalities that can prove their plan offers real savings to residents and lower property taxes will get a one-time matching grant from the state in 2019.
Sharing an arborist is just one of many plans that North Hempstead villages have for saving costs. Others include:
- Plandome Manor: Nassau County plans to transfer ownership of a 5.2-acre grassy field on North Plandome Road to the village, which wants to turn it into parkland, saving $41,000 because the county has agreed to pay for one-time cleanup and repairs. Mayor Barbara Donno said there’s no timetable on when the transfer will happen.
- Plandome Heights: The village plans to share street sweeping services and copy/scanning services with Flower Hill. Documents show the plan will save Plandome Heights $250 a year for each service. Both villages will need to amend the service plans already in place.
- Great Neck Plaza: The village plans to share garbage collection services with nearby Russell Gardens and Kensington. Great Neck Plaza officials said the plan would save up to $20,000 a year. Great Neck Plaza currently has West Babylon-based Winter Bros. Waste Systems as its garbage collection company, while Russell Gardens and Kensington use Westbury-based Meadow Carting.
- Great Neck Estates: The village is planning to build a road salt storage facility to share with the Great Neck Plaza. Great Neck Estates estimates it would save $7,000 to $10,000 in construction costs; Great Neck Plaza says it would save $3,000. Great Neck Estates currently has no place to store salt and officials in Great Neck Plaza say their storage facility is too small.