More in News
Municipal joint services study to begin
RUMFORD -- Selectmen from Rumford and Mexico voted to approve a municipal joint services study by an out-of-state consultant who will help identify areas where the towns could cooperate and consolidate services.
Last Wednesday's vote was made accept the proposal of New Hampshire consultants Municipal Resources, on the condition that a list of references of towns that Municipal Resources has helped in the past check out favorably.
Also in attendance were Dixfield Town Manager Linda Pagels-Wentworth, along with Dixfield selectmen Scott Belskis and Bob Withrow, who learned more about the company's proposal to take back to their full board, who will decide in the future in they want to be included in the study.
According to an email from Municipal Resources president Donald R. Jutton to Rumford Town Manager Carlo Puiia, the consulting company will put together a comprehensive study of any towns wishing to participate, which will help “provide an independent, objective evaluation in which the consultants will seek to identify opportunities to reduce or eliminate duplication and redundancy, and to maximize utilization of human and financial resources along with facilities and equipment within participating communities.”
Jutton added in the email that the study of the two towns will be split into two tasks: an operational review and documentation of each town, followed by a conceptual restructuring plan, with the intent of showing how consolidation in certain areas “will enhance efficiency, effectiveness, or quality of municipal services.”
Board members and citizens from the three towns spoke about about Municipal Resources' proposal for more than an hour.
Rumford Board Chairman Greg Buccina said they would be conducting a townswide audit and then make suggestions. "They would review almost everything."
Mexico Board Chairman Richie Philbrick noted, "We've got this far. I don't think we should drop the ball."
Rumford Town Manager Carlo Puiia said, "We would prioritize from the list and go from there."
Rumford Selectman Brad Adley said, "Recreation should be included as well."
Rumford Selectman Jolene Lovejoy said, “The bottom line is that we need to do things smart and be more economical. If we don't do this now, we'll have someone sitting here 15 years from now asking, 'Why the hell didn't they do this 10 years ago?'”
She added, “I'm sure that when previous boards made the decision to merge services, they considered it a leap of faith. I think that's where we're at right now.”
Rumford Selectman Greg Buccina suggested that the public works departments would be the easiest to merge. He followed that by asking, "Why can't we make a committment to do that now?"
Mexico Town Manager John Madigan responded that, not be negative, but "none of us (town boards) trusts each other. We need an independent with no biases."
Rumford resident Kevin Saisi replied, “If collaborating were really that easy, it'd be done by now. If you're going to invest into a consultant who will give you an objective, outside view, you're literally buying into this concept. You can't just get the results and push it under the rug. The people would ask, 'Hey, where's the results that you spent the money on?'
“If you did things on your own, there would be no motivation to act on anything. By going with the consultant, you have an objective report that you paid for," he added.
Rumford Fire Chief Bob Chase agreed. "I'm confident in Chiefs Wentzell and Dennett that we could come up with a plan, but we don't necessarily have faith in the backing of a plan. An unbiased perspective will help in this."
Mexico Selectman Reggie Arsenault said, "This is a win-win, something for townspeople to look at. We need the audit to see where consoldiation might work. It could take months or even a year to get something on the table."
Withrow said that Dixfield has not yet decided if they want to be involved. He then asked how much the cost would be.
Madigan said that of the total cost of $24,000, he said Mexico has budgeted $8,000 for its share. If Dixfield entered, he estimated each town would pay $6,000, with Rumford paying the remaining $12,000. He said there is an upfront fee of $6,000, then $6,000 after each task. The towns can drop out at any point.
Mexico resident Albert Aniel said, "With a $10 million budget for the three towns, $24,000 is worthwhile to try to lower budgets."
Rumford Selectman Jeff Sterling said, "We're going to have to find a method of agreement before his report comes out, or than changes to the recommendations are made collaboratively."
Madigan pointed out that Mexico and Rumford have been involved in merging situations before, citing the solid waste system that six different towns share, as well as Med-Care Ambulance, which treats 11 towns in the area.
“The solid waste system has been working beautifully since we merged. What makes it work so well is that they deal with one thing: solid waste. All the selectmen of our towns have to do is elect a representative for the solid waste board," he said.
The two board will get together again at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 24 in Mexico to discuss the consultant's references and determine what the next step would be for each town.