Town of Halifax, Vermont
March 19, 2015


Windham Regional Commission’s Municipal Shared Services Meeting

Selectboard members Earl Holtz, Lewis Sumner, Edee Edwards, and Road Commissioner Brad Rafus, joined officials from numerous Windham County towns at this well-attended, WRC-hosted gathering at 7:00 p.m. in the Townshend Town Hall in Townshend Vermont.

Windham Regional Commission’s Executive Director Chris Campany opened with an outline of Vermont Statutes relating to shared municipal services, then discussed examples of cooperative efforts between towns such as mutual aid agreements and equipment sharing. WRC’s Associate Director Susan McMahon detailed pilot project ideas put forth at focus group meetings in 2014, and guest speaker Bob Dean, Director of Regional Services for Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG), gave a presentation illustrating the successful functioning of shared services programs among Franklin County’s 26 rural towns. Dean’s examples included ambulance service, shared fire chief, accounting and purchasing programs, a regional dog kennel, online permitting, and public health service.

Edee Edwards, a member of the panel formed to brainstorm this project, spoke about various instances—such as the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, or the time the town web site was hacked—when Halifax could have benefited from shared expertise. Meeting participants then created a list of those areas of potential collaborative effort which most interested them. Shared highway equipment, animal control, law enforcement, IT skills, commodities and equipment purchasing, assessor, administrative, and financial services were included on the list of recommendations. The concept of a listserv designed for the specific purpose of disseminating information about town needs and available assistance met with general approval. Brad Rafus spoke about the high expense Halifax encounters when purchasing such materials as sand and gravel; the town’s out-of-the-way location dictates increased trucking costs. This lead to a discussion of possible shared services across state borders. Rafus was also among those advocating for shared equipment, especially roadside mowers, which are expensive and are only used a few months of the year.

McMahon encouraged larger towns to consider what they might be in a position to share with their smaller neighbors. Brattleboro’s Town Manager Peter Elwell suggested several ways his town might contribute in that vein—bulk oil purchases, for example. Elwell also promoted prompt establishment of a listserv as the best way to initiate efficient communication among towns.

Throughout the course of the evening, conversation touched on the many ways Windham County towns are already cooperating in meeting common needs and the numerous types of assistance available from Windham Regional Commission and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns. McMahon urged anyone interested in joining the steering committee to step forward. Campany proposed a followup meeting in approximately six months to assess progress.

The meeting concluded about 8:15 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Robbin Gabriel
Selectboard Secretary