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Hardwick to go after 'low-hanging fruit' during first days as Erie County's new comptroller

Incoming Erie County Comptroller Kevin Hardwick
Tom Dinki
Incoming Erie County Comptroller Kevin Hardwick

When Kevin Hardwick takes over as Erie County comptroller Jan. 1, he's going to be looking for low-hanging fruit in government spending. His plan is to look at government collaborations that might save money by working together.

As an example, he cited garbage. While people are concerned about pickup at their homes, the new comptroller argued they don't care where the garbage actually goes. That's where he said governments can work together to bargain lower disposal costs from landfills or incinerators.

"If we were talking about combining garbage pickup, people would get upset about that. People would scream and probably rightly so. People would be very concerned," Hardwick said. "I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about where the garbage goes eventually: what landfill, what garbage burning plant, what rocket that shoots it into space or whatever. Wherever it ends up, that's who we should be dealing with, collectively."

Hardwick said it's a good place to start to cut government costs.

"It can be cheaper. I think it's certainly more efficient. But with efficiency come cost savings," Hardwick said. "Now, you don't have the massive cost savings that you would if you tackled some of the bigger services, but you've got to start someplace. And I think that's where you go after the low-hanging fruit, like garbage disposal. That seems to me to be a natural."

He compares it to when as a councilman in the City of Tonawanda, he backed getting rid of the city's century-old drinking water treatment plant to instead buy water from the Erie County Water Authority. That happened. He's also been a school board member, sat on two different city councils, worked as an aide to a state senate majority leader, served six terms in the Council Legislature and has spent decades as a political science professor at Canisius College.

Hardwick said Erie County might be one of the collaborators to save on its garbage costs. He said after a dozen years in the county legislature, he has no idea what county agencies spend on garbage and garbage disposal, although his new staff might be able to figure it out.

"People think of regionalism. They worry about police and fire and emergency services. Those are the last things you want to consolidate, because people really get touchy about that. They really care that it's their Police Department or their Fire Department. I understand that," he said. "But where the water comes from, where the garbage goes once it leaves the curb. I mean it's got to be picked up and you care about that. But once it leaves the curb, you really don't care about that."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.