Plympton and Halifax selectmen met at Plympton Town House Tuesday, Nov. 29, to brainstorm cost-saving measures and areas where the two towns could benefit from regionalization.
Also taking part in the conversation were Halifax Fire Chief Jason Viveiros, Plympton Fire Chief Warren Borsari, Halifax Town Executive Assistant Charlie Seelig and Plympton Town Coordinator Dale Pleau.
Plympton selectmen had reached out to neighboring towns to explore the possibility of becoming more cost-efficient through combining forces to provide citizens with the best safety services at the most reasonable cost.
Fire Chief Warren Borsari told selectmen several weeks ago he had contacted Halifax’s Fire Chief Jason Viveiros to go over these possibilities and the regionalization discussion was scheduled.
Three options were brought to the table to combine the fire departments and ambulance services for Plympton and Halifax, with Halifax being the host town and Plympton run as a satellite fire station.
Option one would see two ALS (advanced life saving) ambulances, one stationed in each town, Viveiros said. Halifax currently staffs one and a half ambulances for Halifax alone. Viveiros said that the additional staffing to cover Plympton would cost Halifax $250,000, and Plympton’s ambulance receipts are only $190,000, leaving a $60,000 shortfall.
Option two would take into consideration usual time of day call volume and staff accordingly. At 8 a.m. call volume spikes, Viveiros said, and by 6 p.m. calls decline. At 6 p.m. the Plympton ambulance would close and two ambulances would be run out of Halifax. The additional cost would be brought down to $218,000 to cover.
Option three would be to maintain three full time people in Halifax all the time, and two full time people in Plympton, providing ALS coverage. It would be run as one community.
Dale Pleau said that nowhere in Massachusetts has this been done successfully; New Englanders just don’t want to surrender control to another entity. While financially it might be good, he said, there is such a passionate, emotional response…
Various staffing options were presented, and preliminary costs explored, and while much of the data was estimated, and few hard numbers calculated, first views appear to show little if any cost savings to Plympton. Viveiros said both towns are in about the same situation, as far as equipment and personnel go, and that while savings could be realized, they wouldn’t be at first, they would be “down the line” as equipment needed to be replaced and other items could be bought as a region.
Plympton’s selectperson Christine Joy complemented Viveiros on Halifax’s development and use of a staffing formula for ultimate coverage, and she was assured that Halifax would be willing to help Plympton put a similar formula in place for their town.
Plympton selectman John Traynor asked if there is any grant money available to help in the regionalization process. Viveiros answered that there is a grant available, with application time beginning January 1 and closing Feb 1, which would give a one-time $200,000 benefit.
Joy told the group Plympton has a grant from Old Colony Planning Council to look into regionalization.
Other areas investigated included sharing an animal control officer. Halifax said it had no problem with Plympton asking their ACO to put in some hours for Plympton, but their ACO works as a part time town employee and Halifax is not interested in adding hours for Plympton that would make Halifax pay full time benefits, leave, and insurance to what is now a part-time position.
Joy told the group that she had spoken with the Halifax ACO and had never gotten a budget from her so could go no further with the proposal. Halifax Selectman Kim Roy said that Halifax pays their ACO $21,000 and Joy countered that Plympton pays their ACO $5,250. “Maybe that’s why Noreen didn’t call us back, “ Joy said.
Combining assessing departments was explored, when Town Administrator Dale Pleau suggested that there might be some savings there: all that would be needed would be a clerk to man the office, and the towns might share an assistant assessor to do the “heavy lifting.” Charlie Seelig countered that Halifax employs a principal assessor full time, and an assistant who is almost full time. Tom Milias, Halifax Selectman and Assessor, said he could see how the two towns’ departments could be blended. Pleau said Assessing is one department which is universally done the same way in all towns; it is somewhere we could save some money.”
Looking ahead to the retirement of Plympton’s Town Accountant, the possibility of regionalizing there was not considered because Halifax already employs a full time town accountant.
The group felt the meeting was constructive and will continue to investigate regionalization cost saving measures.