The nine towns in the Windham Region Council of Governments (WINCOG) have begun talks on a new project that could help save the towns money by sharing public works equipment.
A meeting Tuesday (Jan. 31) brought many of the public works directors and town management staffs together to brainstorm ideas.
WINCOG provides towns with a forum for intermunicipal discussion, coordination and decisionmaking and includes workshops on timely issues and occasions for such discussion and coordination.
Member towns are Chaplin, Columbia, Coventry, Hampton, Lebanon, Mansfield, Scotland, Willington and Windham.
The project could have the towns take advantage of the state Office of Policy and Management’s Intertown Capital Equipment Purchasing Incentive (ICE) Program.
Coventry Town Manager John Elsesser said a lot of equipment the towns were thinking of getting is “quite expensive.”
He said some of the equipment discussed Tuesday included a portable pothole patcher, a skid-steer loader, or Bobcat with special attachments, and portable lighting, among other items.
“A lot of ideas were thrown out and haven’t been finalized yet and some ideas may be added or dropped,” Elsesser said.
WINCOG Executive Director Mark Paquette said the grant offers towns a way to get the machines they need without carrying the full burden of the cost.
“Many of these towns would never be able to get these types of equipment on their own,” Paquette said. “This is a great deal with a great incentive.”
Selected proposals will receive a state grant of 50 percent, if at least one of the towns is a “distressed municipality/targeted investment community/public investment community.”
Windham falls under the “distressed municipality” description and Elsesser said he is looking forward to working with Windham.
Municipalities must provide matching funds and the state grant cannot exceed $250,000.
Coventry Director of Public Works David Gofstein said if scheduling the use of equipment is done right, there shouldn’t be any problems with availability among the towns.
“All of the towns would split the cost accordingly,” said Elsesser. He added that each town was asked to put a “placeholder” of $14,000 in their capital budgets.
“For $14,000, we can all get $250,000 of equipment,” he said.
Elsesser added this isn’t a new idea for Coventry; the town has shared a catch basin cleaner with Mansfield for almost 15 years.
Windham Mayor Ernie Eldridge, who wasn’t at Tuesday’s meeting, said he is all for sharing equipment with other towns. “Sharing is a great part of keeping cost down for our towns… Why would one town need $100,000 worth of equipment on their own?” he said.
Paquette said there will be more discussions about the idea.
“There is a strong incentive to get this significant savings,” he said, but they “still need to do some research on the whole idea.”
A decision should be made within the next couple of months. Final proposals must be received by the state Office of Policy and Management on or before May 1, 2012.
Posted Feb. 2, 2012 as edited by HTNP.com Editor Brenda Sullivan
Have a news item, event or Letter to the Editor you’d like posted on this news site? Simply send your information to firstname.lastname@example.org and include your town in the subject line of your email. Please also include a phone number where you can be reached if there are questions. To keep up-to-date on local news, “like” us (HTNP News) on Facebook and follow us ( @HTNP) on Twitter!