MEXICO — The Rumford and Mexico Boards of Selectmen met Tuesday evening with the president of Municipal Resources Inc. to discuss updates on each town’s effort to consolidate services.

In September 2013, Municipal Resources provided Rumford and Mexico with a proposal for a comprehensive study on consolidating services. The boards approved the proposal.

Part of the proposal, according to Municipal Resources President Don Jutton, involved setting up subcommittees for departments within each town. Each subcommittee has met at least once.

Jutton said at Tuesday evening’s joint meeting that his purpose in meeting with both boards was to “bring you all up to speed about what’s working so far, what’s not working, and where we need to go from here.”

He said that after meeting with each department over the course of the day, he’s found that the “subcommittee approach has been better in theory than in practice.”

“My major concern right now is how to engage the community in the conversation about merging,” Jutton said. “It’s my thought that you’ll have to proceed incrementally with consolidation. You should focus on picking the low-hanging fruit first. Some consolidation will be easier than others. If you try to do them all at once, there’s going to be chaos.

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“If I can leave you with anything with my visit here tonight, it would be to make an investment in the front end,” Jutton said. “You’re going to have to be incremental and strategic in your approach, and you’ll have to make sure that you and the community are on the same wavelength in terms of expectations.”

Jutton recommended that the towns create a “five-year commitment” for consolidating services in order to prevent resistance against any change.

“People don’t like seeing change, and if you lock yourself into a commitment with one another, you’ll be able to stand up against that resistance,” Jutton said.

Later in the meeting, Jutton spoke about each department at length, including his thoughts on which departments were close to consolidating and which ones weren’t ready.

Jutton said the police and fire departments would likely be the easiest to consolidate.

“With the police departments, you would implement an inter-municipal contract model, where Rumford would be the provider of a service, and Mexico would be the consumer of a service,” Jutton said. “I’d also recommend a three- to five-year rolling cost averaging for service calls.”

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Jutton said all eligible personnel would become Rumford employees upon consolidation.

“That means there would be some adjustments in terms of compensation for Mexico employees,” Jutton said. “At this point, I don’t see any way around dealing with that in the short-term. It’s short money when looking at the long-term gains.”

All officers would move into the building that the Mexico Police Department currently occupies, Jutton said.

Jutton said that out of all of the departments that he’s reviewed, the Public Works Department is the only area with the potential for “squeezing money out.”

“We haven’t gone in there yet and done an in-depth look, but in comparison with other towns, it looks like you could downsize, in terms of number of staff,” Jutton said. “When you combine the staffs of Rumford and Mexico Public Works, you have 21 people. Towns that are comparatively sized, in terms of area covered, have 16 or 17 people. There are potentially different challenges and issues, but it’s hard for me to not think that you can achieve that.”

One of the major issues that Jutton said he found with the Rumford Public Works Department is that they are “one of the only communities that runs their department as a construction company.

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“You’re essentially running a construction company with one customer,” Jutton pointed out. “I talked with some of the employees over there who strongly disagree with me, and it wouldn’t be the first time, but I noticed that the Rumford Public Works has three bulldozers, three excavators, 22 trucks, four loaders and three sweepers. That’s a lot of steel and a lot of money tied up in maintenance.”

Jutton said he had “never seen a Public Works department that doesn’t have a landfill that has a bulldozer.

“And you have three of them,” Jutton said. “We all like to play with big pieces of equipment, but it’s not always effective. It’s time to shift the perspective from construction to maintenance and save some money.”

With the Rumford and Mexico libraries and recreation departments, Jutton suggested that both towns “wait for something to change.”

“Libraries, frankly, are emotion-laden,” Jutton said. “At this point, there’s comparatively little cost benefit for the amount of energy required. Our recommendation is to wait until something changes with the libraries. Wait until one of the two librarians retire or leave, and see where you want to go from there.

“There’s really no business justification for two libraries in the proximity that they’re in with a community this size,” he said. “However, we don’t see that the level of effort it will take to consolidate them is worth the level of return you’ll get, especially when there’s larger fruit out there.”

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As for the Parks and Recreation departments for each town, Jutton described the situation as “too complicated to sort out at this time,” due to the fact that each department is almost 100 percent volunteer-related.

“My characterization with the Greater Rumford Community Center is that it’s like your grandfather on his death bed, connected to a machine, and none of us want to make the decision to throw the switch,” Jutton said. “I just don’t have an answer to that. If you task me with a way to save it right now, I’m not sure I could.

“That being said, it’s such an integral part of the community’s sense of self, and it seems to me that monkeying with the way you deliver recreation services right now runs the risk of alienating the volunteers who help,” Jutton said. “My sense is to leave it alone and let it evolve over time.”

Jutton suggested selectmen select one of the easier departments to consolidate and start the process to see what people think.

“When you start a bulldozer to build a new Wal-Mart, all of the people who don’t want a Wal-Mart are going to show up,” Jutton said. “That’s what you need to do here — start the bulldozer and see who cares. Start trying to consolidate one of the easier departments, see if it works out or not, and use it as a demonstration model.”

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