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Savings, service key to regionalization

September 27, 2010
With most towns facing a likely fiscal problem in 2012 as stimulus funds dry up, many are looking for alternative ways to provide services at less cost. Among the numerous ideas being discussed are various forms of regionalization, in which towns share staff and/or purchase energy or materials in bulk.

In Charlton, the Financial Planning Committee has suggested regionalizing police and fire dispatch, the building inspector, planner, conservation agent and animal control, and selectmen approved investigating sharing the building inspector with Dudley last week.

Charlton's job is held by Curt Meskus, who said he told Town Administrator Robin Craver about Dudley's recent ad seeking to hire an inspector. The two of them conference-called Dudley's town administrator Wednesday, Sept. 22.

"The concept of regionalization of many services is being explored by the [Financial Planning Committee], some department heads and the selectmen," Meskus said before that call. " It is going to take thought, planning, discussion and agreement between the towns on the level of service that can be rendered by any regionalization proposal."

Specifically, he said, the two towns need to work out time, communication and management, address what happens if one town becomes so busy as to need the shared person full-time, and other issues. He also suggested considering a larger regional operation covering several towns in a "hub model," in which there would be a head inspector and specific duties could be fulfilled by the nearest inspector.

A few years ago, Meskus recalled, Sturbridge Town Administrator James Malloy proposed sharing two building inspectors with Charlton and Southbridge, but "at that time, it was not palatable to this board."

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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