Manchester, Dorset Consider Consolidating Public Safety Services
The select boards in Manchester and Dorsetmet concurrently at the Bennington County Court House last week and signed a five-page memorandum "to study further collaboration and consolidation of public safety functions."
The two towns issued a joint press release prior to the meeting, which stated:
The boards will consider an agreement (memorandum of understanding) between the two towns that would authorize a study of consolidated public safety services and possible areas of greater collaboration. The agreement includes studying police, fire, emergency medical services and emergency management functions.
The goal is to cut costs to offset the impact of the Act 60 and Act 68 statewide education property tax on local taxpayers. Both Manchester and Dorset are "sending towns" under the education tax formula, meaning some of the tax dollars collected in those towns support schools in poorer communities.
“Given the ongoing impact of [the] Act 60 [statewide property tax] it is imperative that towns investigate ways to save money while providing efficient, necessary services to its citizens,” said Ivan Beattie, chair of the Manchester Selectboard. “This agreement with Dorset sets the stage for that to happen.”
Chris Brooks, chair of the Dorset Selectboard, added, “Due to the state education property tax, Dorset’s property tax burden is high. Each budget season the Dorset Selectboard works diligently to keep local costs down while providing high quality services. This public safety study will continue our efforts by allowing Dorset and Manchester to explore opportunities for enhanced services and greater efficiencies.”
The memorandum creates a Public Safety Workgroup, including members from both towns as well as representatives from local fire, police and rescue organizations. The group will begin meeting in January and is tasked with soliciting requests for proposals from area emergency service providers and making recommendations to the two select boards. The goal is to have the project completed by next November.