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Three towns to meet to discuss budget savings
AREA — Town leaders from Norway, Oxford, and Paris will come together this spring to discuss sharing services, an option that is beginning to look increasingly good for cash-strapped municipalities trying to make ends meet.
The 10 selectmen of Norway and Paris discussed the issue informally at the end of a recent joint meeting about a mutual contract with Time Warner cable.
"The idea is [to benefit from] any cost savings that can be gained by working together, sharing the same thing," said Paris Chair Ray Glover.
Selectman Bill Damon of Norway said that the good working relationships between the two towns laid a good foundation for the effort.
"I appreciate getting together with Paris," said Damon. "We can sit down and discuss something without arguing. We'll work it out. I really appreciate it."
Board members noted that Paris and Norway already share many resources.
"We have all kinds of things going on where we're already sharing," said Glover, "solid waste being a prime example."
Glover also said that the towns share sign-making equipment. "The equipment is in our department, but everybody pays a share of the cost of it and everybody uses it to make their signs," he said. "We're able to get them cheaper than going out for them."
Norway Paris Cable Television is another example of an area where the towns act as one to provide a service to area residents.
Norway Chair Irene Millett said that she would like to see more coordination of major equipment purchases, particularly for the fire department.
It was good, said Millett, for a town to be able to say "this town has this piece of equipment, so we don't need one because there's always one available," said Millett.
Future shared services could take many forms.
"The town of Norways' Code Enforcement Officer is retiring this spring," said Norway Town Manager David Holt. "That is a position that we, the town of Norway, needs to plan as to what we're going to do to refill it. ... That seems to me to be a position that, under some circumstances, the two towns could share, because a lot of our rules are the same; the contractors are the same."
Selectwoman Jean Smart of Paris suggested that a whole host of major equipment purchases and repairs could be coordinated, but expressed concern about the timeline, which would not see the boards meeting until well into the current budget cycle.
"Would it make sense to think about purchases which we may have to make in the future, expensive purchases of equipment, replacement, or new equipment or new vehicles, that we could share, before we commit in our budget to those?" asked Smart.
Paris Town Manager Phil Tarr said that administrators from the road departments of the two towns had already planned a meeting about other matters, and would discuss areas where they could work together.
"Let's see what comes out of it," he said.
The boards agreed that the town managers should come up with a plan to identify potential areas of collusion.
"My suggestion would be to let David and Phil sit down and talk about that," said Glover, "... and, if you could, put together some kind of an outline of a plan, how you see it working, and bring it back to both the boards to get their reaction to it."
A moment later, Glover suggested that Oxford also be included.
"I would like to see all three boards," he said.
Damon said that more meetings between local boards would be desirable.
"I've been on the selectboard of Norway for a number of years, and we haven't met with Paris or other selectboards but a few times," he said.
The board considered the idea of having a full-blown discussion on the matter, but decided that it would be better to have a separate, publicly-notified meeting for the issue.
The boards of all three towns plan to meet on an unspecified Wednesday night in April.