Putney explores sharing municipal services to save money

PUTNEY — The town is exploring, with many other municipalities, how sharing certain services might trim budgets here and regionally.

Speaking at the Aug. 13 Selectboard meeting, Town Manager Cynthia Stoddard reported that she had attended a session hosted by the Windham Regional Commission aimed at sparking ideas on how towns can leverage each other's experience and strength in numbers.

“Everything from leasing a street sweeper, roadside mowing, group-purchasing dog tags, IT [information technology] services: a gamut,” she said.

Selectboard members at the meeting also took up a sourcewater protection plan update and a grant for a road and culvert inventory.

Of the shared services discussion, Stoddard suggested that real value of the session for her - an enthusiastic discussion of emergency services notwithstanding - rests in the group's potential to share knowledge.

“By the time we got down to the conversation it was more, 'We do this, and we do this...' It was more what I said to them [her counterparts], What would be helpful to me, when we go out to bid for something, we can say, 'These are the [vendors] we've used; is there a place we can share that information?'”

She added, “The amount of time we spend doing research in individual towns, there's a cost associated with that.”

Stoddard said the conversation would continue with monthly sessions.

The Windham Regional Commission says on its website that it created this role for itself - organizing the conversation - after a survey showed strong interest among its constituents.

“Factors driving town needs include increasing demands by state and federal programs and statutes, as well as the increasing complexity of local government administration,” the WRC said.

“We look forward to facilitating the discussion and learning what, if any, role our towns would like the WRC to play in developing and implementing solutions,” it added.

In other business, according to a reading of meeting minutes, posted at www.putneyvt.org, and a follow-up interview with Stoddard:

• The WRC is on board to conduct a Vermont Better Backroads program culvert inventory. The Selectboard agreed to commit a required 20 percent match on a grant of $2,500 to pay for the project.

Stoddard said the work would be used to help prioritize projects in the area.

The grant funds are provided by the Vermont Agency of Transportation and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. The program's goal is to promote the use of erosion control and maintenance techniques that save money while protecting and enhancing Vermont's lakes and streams.

• The town is updating its three-year sourcewater protection plan, aimed at identifing potential hazards. Liz Royer, a specialist with the Vermont Rural Water Association, has conducted the work, which is now in the review stage, Stoddard said.

The report will be released by the end of October. “We don't have anything that's shocking” in the findings, Stoddard said.

She said the majority of the town's sourcewater is in the Wilson Wetlands off Sand Hill Road.

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