Regionalization + Technology: Two ways to help Hartford prosper

Hartford is very well run by town manager Hunter Rieseberg and the key issues it faces have to do with the limitations the economy have put on the ability of the town to raise taxes, or worse, hold them constant in the face of increasing costs, particularly for health care, at a time when so many no longer receive benefits from their job and cannot stomach taxes going to pay for benefits they don’t have themselves. This disconnect will make any increase in taxes a difficult sell for a long time to come.

We’re faced with a series of difficult decisions and I’d like to think I could help make sure we make the best of a bad situation. Coming out of the information technology arena, I sense that the town shies away from asking how IT can be put to use to reduce costs and improve services.

I’ve been a Justice of the Peace in Hartford for the past 8 years and have gotten to know most of those involved in local government. Everyone is trying to make sure the town continues to be well run and I expect to maintain that traditional point of view as Selectman.

Hartford, in an era of contraction, is well positioned to become the regional leader in areas of public protection. Already, the Hartford 911 call center serves 14 of the surrounding towns. We are well positioned to help the region reduce their costs of protection while at the same time bringing in monies that reduce the pressure on Hartford taxpayers.

Regionalization is something not discussed often enough in Vermont and I intend to make it the centerpiece of my campaign.

Because I am running against lifelong Hartford resident Sam Romano, an incumbent, it is unlikely I will win this election. However, the opportunity to make the case that regionalization and greater use of technology are two avenues the town needs to be paying more attention to is well worth the effort.

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Regionalization is essential to our economic future – outside of New England regionalization of public services is commonplace and widely accepted. The costs associated with the duplication of services, equipment and facilites under our present form(s) of government are not sustainable.

Traditions are hard to set aside. Change is hard for some folks. We understand this…

Having said this, wsupport regionalization of services and strive to accomplish these efficiencies where we can.

Thanks for your thoughts on this.

I saw your letter to the editor about shared services. You mentioned something about firetrucks not being needed. It seems to me we should have plenty of firetrucks near population centers. 15 minutes would be a long time in a fire.

I was only talking about 1 kind of very specialized firetruck, a $500,000 hook-and-ladder type battleship of a fire truck. Hartford, Norwich, Hanover and Lebanon each own 1 of these. Most fires do not need this special truck to battle the blaze — it would only be critical in a very large building fire, the kind of fire that would bring every fire department in the area running to the scene anyway. So, in theory, we probably only need one truck like this in the region. If, in fact, we shared this resource it would free up $1.5 million in taxpayer money. That could be used to lower taxes, or to purchase smaller fire trucks that could populate the village fire houses.

Sorry I didn’t explain this more clearly in my letter to the editor in the Valley News.

FX –
I read with interest your Forum letter of 3/2 because The Municipal Network, our convening of elected and appointed officials, is focusing on this very topic. At the meeting in early Feb, the break out groups did a simulation involving Hartford and Norwich combining fleet maintenance services. The discussions were lively and animated. We CAN save taxpayer money without sacrificing levels of service. We will continue this topic at the next Municipal Network meeting which is tentatively set for April 7 from 5-8P at the VFW Post in WRJ.

The issue of regional cooperation and participation is not new. In fact, many years ago it took an act of Congress to approve the Dresden School District so that communities in two states could form a combined school district; The example has served Hanover and Norwich well ever since. For at least the past year an informal gathering of municipal officials from core Upper Valley towns such as Hartford, Norwich, Hanover and Lebanon have gathered to explore ways of working collaboratively together for the common good. The idea of combining some fire and ambulance service has been discussed, but thanks to archaic thinking and regulations that exist in New Hampshire and Vermont what seems logical is not feasible without changing the statutes in either or both states. This is a most unfortunate happenstance because money savings possibilities exist for many communities. Luckily, our mutual aid pacts work well and communities respond quickly for the benefit of their neighbors at times of distress. The notion of combining maintenance facilities for municipal vehicles from more than one community was discussed at a recent Upper Valley Leadership forum and several towns may be on the verge of delving into such an arrangement, again as a cost savings measure. And then there are other more esoteric ways of combining municipal services such as running a wastewater line across the Connecticut River to connect two communities, one with upgraded facilities that would, for a fee, process the waste of a community whose facilities are outmoded and in need of millions of dollars of upgrades. The opportunities are limited only by the imagination of community leaders who are willing to both think better within the box, and also not be afraid to occasionally think and also act outside the box.

Preliminary thinking and work to imagine how to do the sort of projects you envision is underway. Energy, foresight, futuristic vision and the desire to make things happen rather than simply make them be points of discussion is what is needed to move some of these thoughts along to become reality. Think on, move on and get on with your work.

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