BURRILLVILLE — Calling it an important next step toward potential regionalization, the Town Council has signed the second part of a four-town intermunicipal agreement that will see Burrillville, North Smithfield, Smithfield and Glocester sharing equipment and personnel in an effort to help those communities reduce costs.
The agreement, in the works since 2009, is the result of several meetings of the Northern Rhode Island Collaboration of Mayors and Town Administrators, which was formed three years ago to study ways neighboring communities can share resources in times of critical budget constraints. Last year, the four towns signed an intermunicipal memorandum of understanding, which set up a framework to allow the collaborative to begin putting together the intermunicipal agreement.
The Burrillville Town Council signed the first part of that agreement — joint purchasing — last year. The three other communities involved have either already signed off on the agreement or are in the process of doing so.
“This is a four-town intermunicipal agreement that will allow us, in the long-term, to save money by sharing equipment costs between the communities,” said Burrillville Town Manager Michael C. Wood. “This is the second part of the agreement. We've got a purchase agreement in place. This is the type of thing we need to do for the longer term if we're going to realize meaningful savings.”
It was North Smithfield Town Administrator Paulette D. Hamilton who got the ball rolling last year to get officials from surrounding towns to sit down and discuss sharing resources.
“The days of standing on our own are over,” Hamilton had said previously. “The business of government is being redesigned by its forward thinking leaders.”
Last year, the Burrillville School Committee took similar action, signing off on a resolution to create an association of four school districts that would share services and establish joint purchasing agreements to reduce costs.
The Burrillville, North Smithfield, Smithfield and Lincoln School Districts have agreed to form the Northwest Rhode Island School District Consortium, which would consolidate services in the areas of professional development, bulk purchases, technological resources and athletics, among other things.
The resolution, drafted by the Burrillville School Committee's legal counsel, has since been approved by the other three districts.
School districts are facing increasing financial pressure as a result of inadequate educational funding. That shortage of funding prompted the chairpersons of school committees in the four districts to hold an informal meeting in February to discuss the possibility of sharing goods and services to create greater efficiencies and streamlining.
The General Assembly, in fact, passed legislation that encourages the exploration of joint purchasing between two or more school districts.
A growing number of cities and towns are looking into consolidating or sharing services amid growing budget cuts. Johnston and North Providence have come together to consolidate and share animal control services. In that case, North Providence had an animal shelter, but Johnston did not — although Johnston did have an animal control officer.
Cranston and Warwick officials are also studying merging several municipal departments, including senior services and transportation, information technology, animal control, fire dispatch and some library operations.