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Buffalo, Lackawanna mayors discuss cooperation

In a move aimed at advancing regionalism one step at a time, Lackawanna Mayor Norman L. Polanski Jr. met Friday with Buffalo's new mayor to talk about ways the two cities might share services.

Polanski wants Buffalo to consider taking over maintenance duties for Lackawanna's traffic signals. Lackawanna also may start buying street signs from Buffalo instead of sending the work to an out-of-state company. Unlike Buffalo, Lackawanna doesn't have separate divisions that produce signs or handle traffic signals.

Discussion also has revived about Buffalo providing fire services to Lackawanna, although Polanski stressed any speculation about a fire merger is premature.

Several years ago, officials from the two cities held meetings to review the pros and cons of consolidating fire departments. The concept never went beyond the discussion stage.

Polanski called Friday's meeting with Byron W. Brown productive. He said contracting with Buffalo to maintain Lackawanna's 32 traffic signals made sense, since Buffalo already takes care of 630 signals. A traffic sign deal could save Lackawanna money while giving Buffalo extra revenue.

While these might sound like small steps on the regionalism ladder, Polanski and some Buffalo officials say such shared services agreements could pave the way for greater savings. People have been discussing regionalism for years, Polanski said.

"Let's stop all the talk, and let's start making some stuff happen," he said.

He added that the state has committed to provide millions of dollars to local governments that improve efficiency and cut costs by consolidating services.

Peter K. Cutler, Brown's communications chief, said the mayor continues to be "very open to potential collaborations."

Buffalo Common Council President David A. Franczyk, who didn't take part in the meeting, described the mayors' meeting to discuss service partnerships as encouraging. In 2002, he and North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr. urged the two cities to study a fire merger.

Franczyk says smaller scale agreements involving traffic signals and road signs could build momentum for "incremental regionalism."

"It's like an eating an apple," Franczyk said. "You have to eat it one bite at a time, or you could end up choking."


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