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Ossining, Briarcliff Not Talking on Efficiency Study

OSSINING, N.Y. – Ossining and Briarcliff Manor officials are not talking to each other when it comes to a study on government efficiency, leading to mistakes in a recent report, the Briarcliff village manager says.

The Town and Village of Ossining are using a $50,000 grant to perform a study titled Evaluation of Potential Government Structures. The study is aimed at looking into “additional municipal cooperation and consolidation of services,” according to a press release.

The Local Government Efficiency Incentive Grant Program allowed Ossining officials to use the money to hire the Center for Governmental Research to conduct the study. Representatives of the center presented initial findings in a public forum on Thursday, April 26.

While a majority of the Village of Briarcliff Manor rests in the Town of Ossining, no Briarcliff officials were consulted for the presentation. The lack of communication resulted in errors in the report, said Briarcliff Village Manager Philip Zegarelli, who was at the meeting.

“I told them that even though we’re refusing to be a part of this new study to consult us on the figures, because it still involves us,” Zegarelli said Tuesday. “They said that they would, but so far I haven’t heard a thing. There were serious mistakes in the reporting on where Briarcliff Manor is financially, and it would've ended up like that if I wasn't there.”

Zegarelli said the Briarcliff Board of Trustees refused to be a part of the study because of “a falling out” after the Town of Ossining chose to go with county police services instead of Briarcliff’s proposal to use Briarcliff police services.

“They cut our legs out from under us and went with the county after asking us to do this study,” Zegarelli said, adding that the lack of communication is affecting other issues in both governments. “I think it has to be a two-way street on discussion. And certainly what’s been discussed on annexation is that the Town of Ossining has turned a deaf ear to Briarcliff Manor and are leaving us outside.”

Ossining Town Supervisor Susanne Donnelly said the errors Zegarelli pointed out would be corrected prior to the full report’s becoming available online.

“They haven’t been posted online yet, and we’re working on a format, because we want it to be very clear to the residents,” Donnelly said. “No, the problem with Briarcliff Manor is they chose after the grant was issued not to be involved in this whole thing. They’ve made their feelings quite known. I have not on this issue. What we will do is confirm the numbers and make sure they are correct. But as far as them joining us, that’s all in the past now.”

William Hanauer, mayor of the Village of Ossining, said he is recommending that representatives of the Center for Governmental Research speak to Briarcliff Manor officials to ensure the figures are reported accurately.

“At this point it’s important that the consultants talk to the village manager of Briarcliff,” Hanauer said. “They need to get the correct numbers, and as I understand it, it’s being corrected.”

Hanauer said Briarcliff Manor officials will not be included in discussions beyond the figures for Briarcliff Manor.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to talk to Briarcliff until we know what the options are,” Hanauer said. “But I think it’s important that the consultant gets what he might need from Briarcliff. We need to get those figures correct, and I understand he is getting those figures. And I think it was good that (Zegarelli) was at the meeting, because his input was very good and very important.”

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