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IT'S NOT just that government agencies are so numerous that duplication thrives. It's also annoying when proliferating agencies don't talk to each other enough.

And when they do, too often it's with turf-guarding lurking behind the conversation.

Consequently, officials of the Erie County Water Authority and the Buffalo city Water Division merit credit for agreements they have reached so far over a three-month period and for continued talks on other cooperative activities.

The early steps are of most obvious benefit to the city, but in the long run there should be joint benefits, measures that help Erie County residents in many places get pure water at reasonable prices.

The Water Division services Buffalo as a self-supporting unit of city government attached to the Department of Public Works. It has a separate finance agency to facilitate construction borrowing.

The county water authority is a free-standing unit of government serving much of the rest of Erie County without ties to the central Gorski administration.

Talks have saved the city from spending about $1.5 million to upgrade its water-testing laboratory in the city filtration plant to accommodate extra tests being required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The city, instead, will pay to have access to the county's modern lab, which meets the
federal requirements.

What a sensible agreement to make. Why should there be two modern labs when one will do?

The city is already buying chlorine on the county authority's contract at savings of about $50,000.

Plans are afoot to use the authority's ultrasound equipment to detect underground leaks in the city system. Presently, the only sure way the city has of knowing about leaks is when they bubble to the surface.

Water authority personnel will also be used to train city workers. The city lacks a training program.

Such measures, stopping well short of merger, show how governments can help one another and save money in the process even while separate units remain in place.

It's worth noting that the Water Authority-City Hall talks were not encumbered by differences in the political arena. The authority is controlled by Democrats friendly to Masiello.

It seems to be more difficult when the administrations of Mayor Masiello and County Executive Gorski try to deal with each other because the split over Democratic Party leadership intrudes.

But ordinary citizen don't give a hoot who runs what party. They want good government service at the best price possible. Cooperative ventures should be sought and pursued at all levels.

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