The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 8, 2010

Town to study regionalization

Board of Selectmen Chair John Williams welcomed members of the Special Committee on Regionalization Opportunities to its first meeting of the season on September 29. Last year, in an effort to control the growth rate of town expenses, the Structural Financial Planning Committee (SFP) made several suggestions about possible ways to reduce the base cost of running the town. As one of these suggestions, the SFP proposed forming a subcommittee to investigate the feasibility of regionalizing some government functions such as the Recreation Commission (RecCom) and Board of Health (BOH).

Based on that suggestion, the Selectmen appointed the Special Committee on Regionalization Opportunities to investigate and weigh the economic and operational benefits of regionalizing one or more town services with those of nearby towns. The committee includes Town Administrator Tim Goddard, Town Financial Director Larry Barton, representatives from the Board of Selectmen (John Williams), Finance Committee (Dave Model), BOH (Bill Risso) and RecCom (Rick Amodei). The committee will also include a “Citizen at Large” as a seventh member.

Objectives and plans

As its first decision, the committee unanimously elected Dave Model as its chairman. The group then reviewed the work of the SFP, acknowledged regionalization discussions that had taken place between the previous town administrator and the town administrator of Concord, and began a long discussion about what the committee would like to accomplish in the next three months. Risso, who had attended regionalization seminars offered by the state, reported that regionalization does not necessarily result in financial savings. The state encourages towns to investigate regionalizing functions to improve the quality, efficiency or the number of municipal services that are provided.

Model reviewed items that the SFP had discussed this spring, particularly the observation that certain functions represent the core of Carlisle as a community: police, fire department, schools, library, DPW and Council on Aging, and loss of local control over those functions could erode the character of the town. According to Model, “Everything else would come down to cost versus service. No one wants to be the first guy – but we have to get to an economy of scale.” Barton added, “There are certain groups that deal with bylaws and regulations unique to Carlisle, like the Planning Board, while groups like the RecCom and BOH are driven mainly by state regulations that do not vary across communities.” Barton added, “Without engaging with another community, we can’t really understand what the economies of scale are . . . I would ask our BOH and RecCom reps which towns we should talk with. They all know each other.”

The committee grappled for some time with the question of which committees should be investigated. Barton opened the discussion by stating, “We need to go on record as looking at everything.” Model noted, “The differentiators are bylaw differences and local knowledge. RecCom and BOH reps are on the committee because, in the past, those came up as possible groups to regionalize. In a previous year regionalization possibilities had focused on [a proposed Carlisle-Concord School District] superintendent union, but that has been addressed in other ways. Do we go right to RecCom and BOH or do we look at everything? Do we engage with other towns to see what might work?”

After some discussion the committee agreed that before speaking with other towns it is essential to have a good understanding of the functions of each town board. The committee agreed to begin by interviewing each town board to determine what services it offers to the town and then to develop a methodology to make decisions. Once this work is completed, the committee can begin inviting representatives from neighboring towns to join in the discussion. Model suggested that the group may want to talk to peer towns as a benchmarking exercise – to see what services are offered by others.

Williams stated, “We are still in the discovery stage. We need to identify a couple of viable options, starting with RecCom and BOH, and explore cost and service offerings.” Williams noted that the charter for the committee states that the board in question must agree to the regionalization plan.

Community member sought

The committee is seeking a community member at large. Residents interested in serving on the committee should contact chair Dave Model at dmodel@tritonsys.com. The next meeting will take place on Wednesday, October 13, at 7 p.m. ∆


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