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Opinion

May 3, 2013

County board must learn from mistakes

Too bad the Otsego County Board learned so little from its disastrous venture into solid waste management (MOSA) that it has become mired in yet another disaster.

The Manor started badly and will end worse. First, the concrete floors wouldn’t dry. Then reimbursement rates fell. In 2010, the state cited the county for expensive code violations. 

Faced with impossible costs, the board proposes to spend more to sell the white elephant. 

The problem isn’t just incompetence. It’s a failure to grasp the proper role of legislatures, the distinction between business and government and the limits on efficiency that attend political enterprises. 

When private parties miscalculate, or are unlucky, they slash costs and right the ship, or go bust. Private business is forced, by the market, to be efficient.

Government never goes out of business. It rarely cuts spending or lays anyone off, not even department heads convicted of drunk driving.

Government isn’t forced to be efficient because taxes are mandatory. Taxpayers cannot shop elsewhere.

In 2012, the county budgeted $10 million to maintain the roads used by 62,000 residents and 250,000 visitors — whose sales taxes keep property taxes down. For 174 beds at the Manor, the Board appropriated $21-plus million. 

That’s not a safety net. That’s lunacy.

Where I have lived for 30-plus years, county roads only get worse. Culverts are plugged, so roads flood whenever it rains. Snow removal is haphazard.

The next time the board proposes a grand scheme to expand county government, hold your wallet with one hand, and with the other, phone your rep. Tell him to fix the roads first, then worry about everything else.

The only salvation from bureaucratic fantasies is to nip them in the bud.

Nicholas Palevsky

Richfield

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