More than a handshake with new agreement

Towns of Bethlehem and New Scotland enter into a formal shared services contract

— Bethlehem and New Scotland have been sharing services for years, but both towns just recently approved a formal contract after operating on nothing more than a handshake agreement.

The Bethlehem and New Scotland town boards both approved a shared service agreement on Wednesday, Aug. 14, that solidified an informal agreement between the towns. The contract covers the borrowing of highway machinery and equipment, with or without operators, and the maintenance of such items.

“There has been a long history of Bethlehem and New Scotland working together with the highways for paving and other highway related projects,” New Scotland Town Attorney Michael Naughton said at the Town Board’s July 17 meeting.

Under the contract, each municipality is responsible for its own employees. The end result will likely be each town will operate its own machines with its own workers, since liability would fall to the operating town. Neither town would be paid for services provided.

Hypothetically, if a New Scotland employee was operating one of Bethlehem’s machines and it was damaged or needed to be repaired, then New Scotland would be responsible. If a dispute over any repairs, maintenance or services could not be resolved between the towns, then the contract allows for mediation or arbitration.

New Scotland Highway Superintendent Ken Guyer said typically, the lending town used its own employee to operate the equipment.

Guyer said New Scotland’s biggest need from Bethlehem is for paving, and the machinery used has a “steep learning curve.” He said using the town’s employees isn’t practical, because they haven’t been trained.

“We have never put one of our men on one of their bigger pieces of equipment, ever,” New Scotland Town Engineer Mark Dempf said on July 17.

Naughton said Bethlehem Interim Highway Superintendent Erik Deyoe approached New Scotland about crafting a formal agreement between the towns. The contract is initially for a two-year period and it will automatically renew unless terminated by one of the towns, with 60 days notice.

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