Collaborations among Berkshire towns, a concept that has been gaining momentum, received a significant boost Tuesday with signing of a Community Compact by 17 South County towns.
The agreement, which includes six local school districts, brings with it $100,000 in state funds for the Southern Berkshire Shared Services Project, as well as grants and donations from Berkshire banks and philanthropic organizations. The 17 towns are in the 4th Berkshire District represented in the House by "Smitty" Pignatelli, an early and aggressive advocate of shared services among Berkshire communities.
Declining populations and tax revenues combined with costs that regularly rise in spite of declines elsewhere have made it necessary for communities to share services, personnel, and equipment as much as possible. Lee and Lenox have been in the lead and other South Berkshire communities are joining in. The Baker administration is an advocate of these efforts and both Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito participated in the signing ceremony in Great Barrington.
What is not entirely clear is the decision-making process about exactly how government and private money will be spent in a collaboration involving 17 towns and six school districts. This is where idealism may meet harsh reality. There are challenges involved in making any new concept work, but with the obvious desire and need to make the South Berkshire effort successful there is reason for optimism. Communities elsewhere in the Berkshires should pay close attention as the project goes forward.