Legislators Consider Action On CCM Regional Efficiencies, Sharing Services

Legislators Consider Action On CCM Regional Efficiencies, Sharing Services

Hartford Courant, March 1, 2018

By Sandra Gomez-Aceves

With municipalities across Connecticut feeling the financial impact of the state’s looming multi-billion dollar deficits, lawmakers are again suggesting regionalizing and sharing services across town lines as a cost-saving measure.

“If we were to construct the state of Connecticut tomorrow, we would not do it with 169 separate municipalities and 104 911 call centers and 140 school districts. We wouldn’t do that,” Rep. Roland Lemar, a co-chair of the committee, said at planning and development committee forum on the issue.

“We are stuck trying to figure out how to support communities in doing what they want to do to make things more efficient,” Lemar said.

Officials said there are a number of things, including charter provisions, that are preventing several willing municipalities from sharing services across municipal lines.

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“We run into this obstacle from time to time,” Joseph DeLong, executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said. “Two communities will try to work together and employees will simply say, ‘You can’t assign me to go across the border. It’s in my contract I only work within these parameters, within this community.’”

CCM says legislators can change state law to allow interlocal agreements or service-sharing contracts between two or more municipalities as a way to override local charter provisions or ordinances, and that the legislation would make it easier for municipalities to share services.

Mike Freda, mayor of North Haven and vice president of CCM, said his town successfully works with surrounding communities. North Haven, he said, is part of of a regional accident reconstruction team and regional SWAT team.

The town also has developed a regional equipment sharing agreement that allows it to share public works equipment and use the equipment of the other municipalities.

“We’re not going to be able to regionalize everything,” Freda said, “but the collaboration at the local level has never been better, and we do have an appetite to see what else we can do to make our municipalities more regionally efficient.”

In a version of the Democrats’ proposed budget last year, a summary called for councils of government and municipalities to work together to propose plans for regionalizing services. The proposed budget also sought to “facilitate regionalism through changes to collective bargaining statutes’’ and “[consolidating] local assessor offices to achieve economies of scale’’ in order to save money.

Republicans hailed the Democrats’ ideas for local budget reform, but ultimately the provisions were left out of the final version of the bipartisan budget that passed in late October.

“We’ve got four weeks to try and get a product approved out of this committee,” Lemar said Tuesday. “We’re going to try and get as much as we can done … but uniformly we want to address the actionable items.”