Focusing on Efficiency

This is a year focused on establishing greater efficiency. How can village government provide excellent services to the community while making the most of your tax dollars?

In September we welcomed Trustee Rika Levin to the Board. That appointment was made following a call for resumes and interviewing the nine candidates who stepped forward.

With the unexpected resignation of now former Trustee Daraio, we have a vacancy on the Board. The BOT has decided not to appoint anyone to fill that seat at this time. We will allow the election to unfold.

It is never ideal to have elective positions filled by appointment rather than the will of the voters. And to establish a Board of Trustees where 40% of representatives are by appointment, is undesirable, particularly with the election only three weeks away. There have certainly been circumstances in the past, when the BOT has functioned adequately with only four members for periods of time.

Two of the primary responsibilities of the BOT are to pass an annual budget, and to set big picture goals that the village manager and department heads then implement.

Abe Zambrano becoming Village Manager this spring marked another significant change of leadership of village government.

The overarching goal of this Board is to make village government function efficiently and serve the public well. We work for you, the residents of Ossining. We articulated our goals to Abe Zambrano when we hired him, and he is moving forward with implementing his plans for two departments where he sees the greatest opportunities for improved efficiency through restructuring.

After opening the October 14 work session (linked here) with remarks on these subjects, the agenda included discussion of a proposal for a branding campaign with the tagline Ossining: Where Culture Lives. The highlight of the rest of the meeting, which gets into municipal government minutiae, is that Albany has approved our Government Efficiency Plan to save money through shared services with the Town, so Ossining taxpayers will get their “rebate” from the state.

Beginning with his own department, Abe has hired a new Confidential Assistant to the Manager who will bring the skills needed for the village management office of today. That individual is expected to begin in a matter of weeks.

We want to be a community where residents know that when they walk into the village building department, they can look forward to receiving the help they need as they navigate the requirements for a permit, a certificate of occupancy, or any concern about their property. A more specific goal in this regard is streamlining the process of working with the village, including digitizing forms and improving access to public information.

The other priority that must be addressed is code enforcement, particularly in regards to overcrowded housing. Overcrowded housing is a complex issue that impacts the health and safety of the people living in these conditions, as well as first responders, and our whole community. The challenging nature of this issue is why many officials are reluctant to deal with it. It is certainly not unique to Ossining, and that means we can learn from other municipalities how to more effectively address overcrowded housing.

Manager Zambrano’s approach for how to improve the effectiveness of the Building Department took a different path when Village Planner Valerie Monastra left to take a position in the private sector. Her departure prompted a need for considering how best to accomplish the work of the planner. Just because a department has been organized in a particular way for the past ten years, doesn’t mean that same formation is the best way to serve the village residents for the next ten years.

Manager Zambrano is interviewing candidates to step into the position in a new way. Abe will bring in someone with a fresh approach—someone who has the experience and skills to lead the work of a combined planning and building department.

This Board is very supportive of the restructuring that Manager Zambrano has proposed to us for the village management, as well as building & planning departments. And we look forward to the improved efficiency and service that will be provided to village residents with these changes.

Click here to view the October 14 Work Session and to subscribe to the Village of Ossining YouTube channel!

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