“Does the board embrace looking at regionalization to see if it makes sense?” asked Bill Risso of his peers at the Board of Health (BOH) meeting on Tuesday, October 12. Risso represents the board on the town’s newly formed Special Committee on Regionalization Opportunities. In February, a predecessor group, the Structural Financial Planning Committee (SFP), recommended the formation of the new committee to look at regionalization of some services, specifically those provided by the BOH and the Recreation Commission.
With BOH Chair Jeff Brem downstairs at the Selectman’s meeting the same evening, Acting-Chair Mark Caddell noted that in previous meetings Risso had said “it would be detrimental for the town of Carlisle” and wondered how he felt now. Risso responded that he still was opposed to the idea, but that he wanted to understand how the rest of the board felt about the issue.
“We should be open,” responded member Cathy Galligan. She added that she was open to the process. Galligan has begun to compile information on regionalization opportunities in the area of public health with other towns, and added that “The data I’ve seen is that we would lose more than we would gain.”
“That’s my feeling,” agreed Risso. He noted that the level of service that town residents had grown used to from the BOH would decrease through regionalization.
“ I think Carlisle is unique, and some of the public health needs here are not necessarily the same as other towns,” said Caddell. Nonetheless, he added that he would like to understand the possibilities afforded by regionalization, and said “I have an open mind to listen to pro and cons.” He wondered if the BOH should host an open meeting to gather community input.
Risso believed that a meeting was preliminary at this point, and added the members of the special subcommittee just want BOH support for the review at this point.
“We’d like to hear what they have to say without being pushed back into a corner,” said Caddell.
Different types of regionalization
The BOH would continue to exist if it paid another town to conduct some services on its behalf. It has already contracted services such as inspections.Risso offered another example of regionalization under consideration. By joining the district grouping of Nashoba, the town could pay into a fund with eight other towns to cover work and perhaps realize group discounts and savings.
Galligan responded that again she was open to the idea, but expressed a concern that the towns in the district were different in nature from Carlisle. She wondered if a grouping of more similar towns could be considered “a better reference point.”
Risso said that Regionalization Committee member John Williams was investigating one similar town, Lincoln. Town Administrator Tim Goddard had volunteered to look at the Nashoba grouping on behalf of the committee.
Risso again expressed his frustration at the efforts, and wondered, “Why the town of Carlisle would not consider the BOH as a core function of government?” The core town services were identified by the SFP through several months of investigation last winter (see “Town considers job reductions, sharing functions with Concord,” December 18, 2009 and “Town cost reduction plan takes shape”). The core town services as identified by the SFP included the excellence in the schools, the Library, the Police and Fire Departments, safety and care of the elderly in town, and the DPW to ensure safe roadways.
Discussions were held at that time with departments such as police and DPW. One change made as a result of SFP recommendations was that the town’s administrative coordinator position was redefined to a housing coordinator, and funding was shifted from the general budget to Community Preservation funds.
The Regionalization Committee is seeking a community member-at-large. Residents interested in serving on that committee should contact Chair Dave Model at email@example.com. ∆