By Amy Porter
Lt. Governor Karyn Polito will be making her first trip back to the Gateway Hilltowns on Wednesday, June 7 at 5 pm in Stanton Hall, for a meeting with the Hilltown Collaborative, the group that emerged from the Community Compacts signed by the six towns and the Baker/Polito administration one year ago. Andrew Myers, chair of the Hilltown Collaborative, said the Lt. Governor will be coming to pledge the administration’s continuing support and additional resources to the process.
While each town’s representative signed a Community Compact, the six were identical, pledging to work together to create conditions for a strong economy in the face of increasing pressures on municipal and school budgets. In return, the Baker-Polito Administration pledged to be a reliable partner in local aid, and to make technical assistance opportunities available. Both have been true to their word.
The main focus of the meeting on June 7 will be a presentation by Zachary Blake and Sean Cronin from the Division of Local Services (DLS) who will discuss possibilities for shared financial management operations in the towns, which include Blandford, Russell, Montgomery, Huntington, Chester and Middlefield. Blake met with all of the towns individually over the winter and interviewed town officials and financial officers for the study made possible through the Community Compact. The findings, plus statewide trends and best practices are detailed in the presentation.
“There are some new ideas to help the towns be sustainable. Potential for sharing of financial services, accountants, treasurers, tax collectors,” said Myers. “It’s not a quick fix, but a 3-5 year process of transition, with more professional staff doing these things in the future,” he added. Currently some of the financial positions in the towns are elected, and some are appointed.
In addition, the group recently received a grant of $100,000 to establish an office and hire an economic development coordinator for the region, enlisting the services of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to assist in recruitment of the position. PVPC has also been an active part of the other Community Compact efforts, and is also currently conducting a study of information technology services that could be shared between the towns.
The application period for the economic development coordinator ended May 22, and interviews will begin in June. Myers said they have received about a dozen applications, both local and from out of the area. The position will be located in Chester Town Hall, and supervised by the Hilltown Collaborative.
Myers said the Hilltown Collaborative has become a model for the state, which is encouraged by the cooperation between the six towns in looking forward to a sustainable economic future for the region. Lt. Governor Polito is expected to share the state’s perspective on the local effort during her visit on June 7.