Country Journal: Hilltown Collaborative prepares for next steps

02 Aug 2017

Community designees to the Hilltown Collaborative met at Blandford Town Hall Tuesday morning to discuss next steps and review what has been accomplished in the group’s short time working together in pursuit of a two-pronged mission supported by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Community Compact program. 

The regional effort involving designees from the towns of Montgomery, Russell, Blandford, Huntington, Chester and Middlefield has secured state-funded resources to both work with community development consultants Elan Planning, Design & Landscape Architecture, PLL, and MassDevelopment, on an economic development strategy that will include public meetings and stakeholder interviews, as well as the Mass Department of Local Services (DLS) who will help the towns determine opportunities where regionalization can improve and lower the costs of municipal services and functions. 

Collaborative members reaffirmed their belief that access to the Massachusetts Turnpike and broadband internet are two of the biggest issues facing the region, but want to avoid having many of the other important short-term goals of the group get lost in their advocacy for those longer-term solutions. 

Tasks already completed by the Collaborative over the last few months include: Securing a designated community member from each town to serve on the Collaborative; Hosting representatives from the Mass Department of Local Services in Stanton Hall; Securing signoff for DLS work agreement by each of the six towns’ selectboards; Hosting an all-day, six-town economic development tour; Attending an all-day workshop at Elan’s office, and producing a video highlighting strengths within each of the six towns 

The next steps for the Hilltown Collaborative include getting all appointed town officials from each of the six towns to sign the MassDevelopment Memorandum of Understanding-- allowing Elan to initiate its work in earnest. As well as scheduling time this fall for DLS officials to begin working with town officials to better understand how the towns work and identify ways to improve town services, while saving taxpayer dollars. 

Editor’s note: Patrick Beaudry is with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.