Our Opinion: Sharing services means towns must accept change

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It may or may not be a good idea for Lee and Lenox to share a fire chief, but maintenance of the status quo is not a good argument against it.

Veteran Lee firefighters told the Selectmen Tuesday that the rank and file were against the idea because, in the words of Captain James Hunt, in his 29 years with the department it has had three chiefs "all coming from within, and we want to continue along those lines." (Eagle, February 18). This amounts to a pre-emptive strike as the discussion is in its early stages.

Lee and Lenox, along with Stockbridge, are to their considerable credit plainly serious about shared services. The three communities are investigating the possibility of a shared town manager, a bold step with limited precedent in the state but an action that could save all three communities considerable money if successfully enacted.

The recent decision of the Lee-Tyringham School Union to suspend efforts to share a school superintendent with Lenox is disappointing, but if the suspension translates to a one-year delay to address possible ramifications rather than a back-burning, it could prove advantageous. The towns are moving ahead with other shared services programs.

The Lee firefighters told the Selectmen that they want to be included in the shared fire chief discussion, which is certainly reasonable. In turn, the Selectmen noted that the discussion is in no way a criticism of the firefighters' job performance. What is not valid is the argument that change cannot happen because "this is the way we've always done things."

Change has already been thrust upon Berkshire communities, negating attempts to maintain the status quo. Declining population and tax revenue mean that municipalities must find ways to cut costs and avoid substantial increases in property taxes. Shared services are the wave of the present, not of the future. Lee, Lenox, Stockbridge and other towns must keep moving forward in finding ways to share services and lower costs for taxpayers.


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