RUMFORD — Rumford and Mexico selectmen unanimously voted Wednesday evening to accept the proposal of an out-of-state consultant who will help identify areas where the towns could cooperate and consolidate services.
Selectman George Byam made the motion for the towns to accept the proposal of New Hampshire consultants Municipal Resources, on the condition that Municipal Resources provides a list of references of towns that they have helped in the past.
Dixfield Town Manager Linda Pagels-Wentworth, along with Dixfield selectmen Scott Belskis and Bob Withrow, also attended the meeting, in hopes of learning more about the company's proposal.
According to an email from Municipal Resources president Donald R. Jutton to Rumford Town Manager Carlo Puiia, the consulting company will put together a comprehensive study of any towns wishing to participate, which will help “provide an independent, objective evaluation in which the consultants will seek to identify opportunities to reduce or eliminate duplication and redundancy, and to maximize utilization of human and financial resources along with facilities and equipment within participating communities.”
Jutton added in the email that the study of the two towns will be split into two tasks: an operational review and documentation of each town, followed by a conceptual restructuring plan, with the intent of showing how consolidation in certain areas “will enhance efficiency, effectiveness, or quality of municipal services.”
Board members from all three towns were enthusiastic about Municipal Resources' proposal.
“The bottom line is that we need to do things smart and be more economical,” Rumford Selectman Jolene Lovejoy said. “If we don't do this now, we'll have someone sitting here 15 years from now asking, 'Why the hell didn't they do this 10 years ago?'”
Mexico Town Manager John Madigan pointed out that Mexico and Rumford have been involved in merging situations before, citing the solid waste system that six different towns share, as well as Med-Care Ambulance, which treats 11 towns in the area.
“The solid waste system has been working beautifully since we merged,” Madigan said. “What makes it work so well is that they deal with one thing: solid waste. All the selectmen of our towns have to do is elect a representative for the solid waste board.”
Lovejoy added, “I'm sure that when previous boards made the decision to merge services, they considered it a leap of faith. I think that's where we're at right now.”
Rumford Selectman Greg Buccina asked the board why they needed to pay a consulting company money when they could just work things out by themselves.
Rumford resident Kevin Saisi replied, “If collaborating were really that easy, it'd be done by now. If you're going to invest into a consultant who will give you an objective, outside view, you're literally buying into this concept. You can't just get the results and push it under the rug. The people would ask, 'Hey, where's the results that you spent the money on?'
“If you did things on your own, there would be no motivation to act on anything,” Saisi continued. “By going with the consultant, you have an objective report that you paid for.”
After an hour of discussion, the board voted to approve the consultant's proposal, on the condition that the town managers of each town find out how the proposal worked for other towns.
Belskis said that he and Withrow would abstain from voting since the three remaining Dixfield selectmen were not aware of the details of the proposal.
Each board agreed to meet again on Sept. 24 to discuss the consultant's references and determine what the next step would be for each town.