There’s much to love about living in one of Berkshire County’s small towns. For small-town governments, though, it’s often a heavier lift to provide necessary public services, especially in rural, less-populated and underserved regions like ours.
Regionalizing those services between neighboring towns can help lighten that load for all parties involved, which should be an easy instinct for our Berkshire communities that know the value of neighborly support.
To this end, we’re pleased to see Becket and Otis begin sharing a police chief this week. Both towns will still have their own police departments, but sharing leadership is a smart and easy way to limit costs and promote efficiency.
The plan hatched by the towns’ leaders is an even-handed one. Becket’s police chief, Kristopher G. McDonough, will work in Otis on Wednesdays and Fridays and stay on the Becket beat Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Mondays, he’ll split time between the two municipalities. That base schedule means neither town should get short shrift, and the agreement signed by both towns allows for needed flexibility.
Chief McDonough will remain a Becket employee while Otis will pay for 2.5 workdays per week and half the costs of maintenance and repair on the chief’s cruiser.
Too often does parochialism rear its ugly head when an elegant solution like this is on the table. It’s nice to see these communities work together to better provide for their constituents’ public safety in a way that’s more financially sustainable all around.
We’d love to see more of it throughout the Berkshires, whether it’s sharing police, fire, EMS, education or administrative services. Regionalization need not be a dirty word, and while there’s no one-size-fits-all plan for neighboring communities to share services, Becket and Otis demonstrate that coming up with a sensible plan can be quick and painless. Talks between the two towns formally began in January, and a deal was reached by February.
The agreement will run through the end of this fiscal year, and it will be up to both towns to decide by May 15 whether to renew it.
The draft text of that agreement spelled out an important premise: “Becket and Otis are desirous of making the most efficient use of their respective town resources, while at the same time providing sound and effective ... services to its residents ...”
We share that desire for all Berkshire small towns to be able to strike a healthy balance between serving their residents and watching their budgets. We wish these two South County towns well on what will hopefully be an exemplary endeavor.