As a retired director of Hancock Planning Commission (HCPC), I applaud the July 14 Ellsworth American editorial on the sharing of municipal services. My opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the HCPC leadership.
Implementing fair and cost-effective sharing of services will be an uphill battle and require more work than the county administrator could possibly do.
First, there needs to be an overall assessment of current and projected trends facing the county. This would include socioeconomic changes such as median age, housing, health care, public services and facilities and employment. This would identify current and projected future opportunities for multi-town and county-wide cooperation.
There needs to be extensive public outreach and involvement by current providers of services. This would also involve identifying obstacles to cooperation. While HCPC towns saved money through a cooperative road salt purchase, other cooperative purchase ventures have failed. For example, police departments usually buy their cruisers locally since they are given priority for service by local dealers. Buyers of heating oil are offered service contracts from local vendors.
Since fire departments rely on mutual aid, there is potential in coordinating purchases of fire equipment. Departments in adjoining towns may not need to purchase identical equipment if sharing is viable.
Sharing staff also has potential. This allows for several towns with part-time staff to create a full-time position with benefits. HCPC previously provided payroll services for a shared multi-town shellfish officer.
Thomas E. Martin