Regional Community Development News – August 12, 2009 [regions_work]


A compilation of news links about and for regional communities pursuing local and regional development.

Published on line since November 11, 2003.



Top Regional Community stories … 1. – 2.

U.S. Regional Communities - sub-State, State or multi-State – news articles … 3.01 - .13

Other Regional Community News for Our Local Planet … 4.01 - .03

Announcements …. 5.


Note: Short issue – Vacation time. Ed.

Top Regional Community stories

1. Baby steps to regionalization - Asbury Park Press

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but it is certainly the mother of regionalization. Municipal budget woes are prodding some officials to look into that concept and to find other ways to save taxpayer dollars. As Red Bank Mayor Pasquale "Pat" Menna said, "Municipal budgets are being torn asunder at every turn."

Red Bank officials last week signed a resolution to join a study of regionalizing garbage collection in more than half of Monmouth County. The Central Jersey Council of Governments is seeking a state grant to fund the study, expected to cost $418,000. Officials of participating towns, which make up about 72 percent of the county, predict potential savings up to 20 percent or more by combining trash-collecting resources.

But Red Bank officials are also looking at cutting costs of other borough services, such as hiring low-bid private contractors for cutting down fallen trees and to supplement the borough's public utilities staff for jobs such as snow removal. …

Regionalization and the privatization of some functions of municipal responsibilities are ideas that could help cut down the hefty costs of local government. It's long past time for municipalities to consider them. Municipalities that have consistently balked at sharing services need to get on board and explore these possibilities for the sake of the beleaguered taxpayers within their borders.

2. Break down old town lines - The Daily News of Newburyport - North Andover, MA, USA

If taxpayers could choose their public services, would they choose the services they receive today?

Government is a monopoly defined by geography, and our geographic boundaries, laid-out hundreds of years ago, determine what services we receive and who provides them.

As voters we choose our elected officials and they decide what services we receive. This year candidates are again promising fiscal responsibility, greater accountability and greater efficiency. Some might even mention how we fund government and some might mention service levels provided for our tax dollars. They are all talking about regionalizing our local governments. None of them mention consolidation — they should be.

Massachusetts is over-governed. We have 351 cities and towns, 393 school districts, 139 other districts (water, fire and electric), 106 retirement boards and numerous other public entities. Consolidating many of these political subdivisions would increase service levels and reduce costs.

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue Division of Local Services recently completed an Enhanced Regionalization and Merger Analysis for the Towns of Hamilton and Wenham (available on the DOR/DLS Web site). The report's conclusions "support the fundamental premise that the merger of two towns into one can produce overall dollar savings, higher service levels and efficiencies in the operation of local government." It projects an annual savings of $752,438 — 1.7 percent of the combined operating budgets of the two towns — $42,925,744.

In contrast, the proposed regionalization of the Amesbury, Salisbury and Newburyport health departments optimistically represents less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the combined operating budgets of the three towns. The return on this investment doesn't justify the time expended and the negative costs like anger and mistrust directed at our local leaders or embarrassing press stories.

Let's redraw our local boundaries creating municipalities based on service parameters, efficiency and effectiveness. …

3. U.S. Regional Communities - sub-State, State or multi-State - in news articles.

Bold font words are Google search terms. Bold italic words considered worth noting. In this and section 11, links to websites of organizations are added to the news excerpt when this is the first time an organization has been found. A goal of this newsletter is to find every regional council in the U.S. in a news story as well as recognizing other regional organizations. In most cases, where a full name is present, a Google search will quickly get one to that organization. News reports do not always get the organization name correct. Contents

.01 Reconfiguration Lawsuit Superior Court Rules in Favor of Region 14 - CT, USA

The Superior Court decision states that it is not clear if the reconfiguration changes conflict with the language in the 1968 regional plan. "The plan recommends: 'that grades K through 5 be housed in elementary school buildings in Bethlehem and Woodbury'," the memorandum of understanding stated. "Strictly speaking, that is still true. Both schools remain elementary schools. Grades K through 5 are still housed in the elementary school buildings in Bethlehem and Woodbury." The court ruling stated that the Region 14 Board of Education's actions fall within the mandate of state statute 10-220(a), that states, in part, that boards of education shall designate the schools which shall be attended by the various children within the school district. ...

.02 Against Region 12 Supreme Court Finds in Favor of Bridgewater in Lawsuit - CT, USA

The state Supreme Court ruled that a referendum on a proposed elementary school consolidation by Region 12 could not take place until each of the three towns in the region - Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington - amends the original August 1967 regionalization plan. The ruling explains that voters in each town must amend the 1967 plan, since the plan allows for individual town elementary schools. Each town has to pass the change. ...

.03 Guard troops may be needed in troubled Ala. county

The Associated Press -

The sheriff in Alabama's most populous county may call for the National Guard to help maintain order, a spokesman said Tuesday, after a judge cleared the way for cuts in the sheriff's budget and hopes dimmed for a quick end to a budget crisis. Circuit Judge Joseph L. Boohaker ruled that leaders in Jefferson County — now trying to head off a municipal bankruptcy filing of historic proportions — could go ahead with plans to slash $4.1 million from the budget of Sheriff Mike Hale, who had filed a lawsuit that temporarily blocked spending cuts for his office. ... (Gov.) Riley previously refused to declare a state of emergency in Jefferson County, which has about 640,000 residents and includes the state's largest city, Birmingham. But he hasn't ruled out sending in Guard members or state troopers if needed. ... The budget crisis comes as the county seeks to avoid filing what would be the largest municipal bankruptcy ever over some $3.9 billion in sewer bonds it can no longer afford to repay. …

.04 Regionalization boards set first meeting

Fall River Herald News - MA, USA

The town’s Regional School Planning Committee will meet with the Berkley Regional School Planning Committee at 6 p.m. tonight in the conference room at North Elementary School. It will be the first meeting for both committees. A regular School Committee meeting will follow. Both Berkley and Somerset voted to establish their committees at their respective annual Town Meetings. Somerset Town Moderator Lucia Casey appointed the members of Somerset’s regionalization board: School Committee member Elizabeth White, Parent-Teacher Organization member Julie Ramos-Gagliardi and Joe Quinn, a commissioner for the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District. ...

.05 Montpelier moves forward on regional ambulance study

Barre Montpelier Times Argus - Barre, VT, USA

The Montpelier City Council voted Wednesday to move forward in researching a regional public safety agreement between area communities, tapping two councilors to serve on a Regional Public Service Committee to move the proposal forward. ... Mayor Mary Hooper expressed frustration that past attempts at regionalization on this and other issues have failed, although she thanked the others for being willing to try yet again. "Just for the record, I've done this five times now," said a clearly skeptical Hooper....

.06 Dowd explains regionalization options to freeholder board

Shore News Today - Ocean City, NJ, USA

Atlantic County Executive Superintendent Thomas Dowd spoke to the Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders Tuesday, July 14 about his recommendation for feasibility studies with regard to regionalizing area school districts. He told the board about the New Jersey Accountability Code, saying it focuses on fiscal responsibility, efficiency and budget procedures. ...

.07 More cops on street a key benefit to regional 911 project

Gloucester Daily Times - MA, USA

Much of the discussion of the planned Essex County 911 emergency dispatch center, which has now gained the endorsement of both of Gloucester's public safety chiefs, has focused on how much the project can generate in savings for cities, towns and their taxpayers. But another key aspect that shouts volumes in support of the regionalization effort can be seen in the idea that shifting Gloucester's dispatch services to the regional center planned for Middleton would free up as many as six police officers to work the city's streets, rather than in the department's own dispatch room. ...

.08 Regionalization of health services up for vote tonight

The Daily News of Newburyport - CT, USA

As the City Council prepares to vote on a three-community regional health agreement, Mayor John Moak admits he's unsure that the agreement will get the needed approval to take effect in the city. "I'm not real optimistic about it," Moak said. Under the regionalization plan, first presented by city officials in May, Health Director Jack Morris would have the responsibility of overseeing all administrative tasks associated with health services: inspection, animal control, public health nurse and administrative backup services for Amesbury, Newburyport and Salisbury. ...

.09 Officials ponder policing

Altoona Mirror - Altoona, PA, USA

Area police departments face similar struggles: including rising costs, manpower and scheduling. Now they may work together to try to solve them. A workshop between borough officials and police representing Carrolltown, Hastings, Northern Cambria and Patton had those involved encouraged late last week. Their hope: to get enough support from their local councils to study the possibility of forming a round-the-clock regional force or, at the very least, find a way to strengthen cooperation among existing departments to improve the region's coverage. "Nobody ever wants to use the 'R' word, but it's coming to a point I think we should look at [regionalization]," Patton Mayor Steve Bakajza said. ...

.10 Petition opposes regional veterans department

Marshfield Mariner - Marshfield, MA, USA

Instead of each town having its own veterans service office, multiple towns would share a single office, thereby creating one regional district. ... “We might also have to have (protest) signs made up and go down to town hall and let them hear it,” he said, claiming that regionalization of veterans services would severely disrupt Marshfield’s active group. “We don’t want to do it because we got more people on our rolls then they do … they’re not active at all.” While the veterans services in Scituate, Duxbury and Norwell may be lumped into one program along with Marshfield’s, they do not participate in organized affairs like Marshfield, Tramonte said. Marshfield spends close to $11,000 per veteran each year compared to that of Scituate, which spends approximately $200 per veteran per year. ...

.11 Towns may regionalize shelters

Providence Journal - Providence, RI, USA

Regionalization in Rhode Island draws its share of talk. Add some barking and meowing to the mix. An idea to bring homeless animals from Lincoln to Pawtucket’s expansive new shelter .. officials are at the discussion stage and there is no formal proposal, according to officials from both communities. ... officials in both communities have to consider costs, including feeding animals and veterinary examination. Regionalizing services has drawn interest as a cash-strapped state examines how it does things. Merging school districts, fire departments and, in one lawmaker’s ill-fated try, five towns into one, are concepts bandied about in a time of recession. ...

.12 BNP Media and Spectrum Gaming Group Team Up for New England Gaming Summit

PR Newswire (press release)

The explosive potential for gaming in the New England region will be the focus of a new conference from BNP Media Gaming Group and Spectrum Gaming Group. The first New England Gaming Summit will be held September 13-14, 2010, at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, Conn. ... "Two of the largest casinos in the world are located in Connecticut, while gaming operations in Rhode Island and Maine are also part of this vibrant market," added Charles Anderer, Group Publisher, Gaming, for BNP Media. "With Massachusetts and New Hampshire legislative leaders likely to reconsider casino-style gaming, there may be more to come. The region is ready to explore gaming's current impact and future potential in a dedicated conference environment." ...

.13 Making Connecticut and Westchester Towns More Livable - Regional Plan Association

A new study by Regional Plan Association examines how mayors from six communities in Connecticut and New York can revitalize their downtowns, promote transit oriented development, and provide residents with more walkable and livable communities. The 18-page report summarizes recommendations that resulted from a two-day-long intensive planning exercise in which the mayors of six cities, towns, and villages from New York and Connecticut worked with a resource team consisting of experts in planning, design, development, transportation, and landscape architecture. Each mayor presented his/her case study or specific problem to resolve, which was then followed by an hour and one-half brainstorming session about the solutions.

4. Other Regional Community News for Our Local Planet Contents

.01 First H1N1 Flu Death in Region

Solomon Islands News - Suva, Fiji Islands

The first death from the H1N1 flu in the region has been reported from Guam. ... The A(H1N1) flu or Swine Flu is now no longer a traveler's disease as it was considered before and is now being spread locally in countries in the region through person to person contact.

.02 Mind the gap: Fixing Canada's EI system

Prime Minister R.B. Bennett proposed payments for jobless workers during the Depression in 1935, and Unemployment Insurance (UI) was introduced in 1940. In the early 1970s, changes made UI easier to get, covered more people, and increased the payouts. Cuts in the 1980s and 1990s decreased the amount paid out, required more hours to qualify, and linked the amount of benefits to unemployment rates in different regions. The name changed to Employment Insurance in 1996. "It used to be one of the most generous in the world, but now it's becoming similar to other countries," says Jim Struthers, a professor who has studied EI at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario. Unlike other countries, Canada uses EI as a tool to redistribute wealth to poorer regions and to benefit seasonal industries like fishing. Struthers believes EI has a role to play in the recession as a fast, efficient economic stimulus going to people who will spend the money they get. ...

.03 Try carpooling says Regional Council - Press Release - Greater Wellington Regional Council

Next Wednesday is Carpool Day and people in the Wellington region are encouraged to give carpooling a go. Ping Sim, coordinator of Greater Wellington’s new Let’s Carpool programme, says the national day is an inaugural event for New Zealand. “The idea of Carpool Day was dreamt up by Auckland woman, Sarah Painter, who tried carpooling some time ago and has never looked back. ...

5. Announcements - following two posts.

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