Although the plan for Scituate, Marshfield, and Norwell to use a state grant to hire a tri-town Human Resources director has fallen through, local officials are not giving up on finding ways to consolidate resources.
The towns found out a month ago that they did not win funding from the Massachusetts Community Innovation Challenge, a state program launched in November 2011 to give $4 million in grants to help towns regionalize.
The three South Shore towns had requested $150,000 for the position, which would have been available for a year.
The towns hoped to discover if this job was one they could share, and help facilitate an HR audit to look over the deficiencies of each town and begin to make changes.
According to Scituate Town Administrator Patricia Vinchesi, the towns did not receive the money because the grants did not fund any personnel requests this year.
Awarded projects went to feasibility studies for shared services and software for online town management that could also be piloted in other communities.
Although the towns will not hire such a position without the grant funding, officials do hope to coordinate on other projects moving forward.
“[Marshfield Town Manager] Rocco Longo and I met [the other day] to talk about other potential ways to collaborate. We might pursue additional resource of shared Board of Health services,” Vinchesi said. “Just every town has to do flu clinics and food inspections and Title 5 inspections…and we were talking a bit about how there might be some economy of scales for those type of services.”
Vinchesi said Scituate is also looking to apply for grants on a regional basis more and more, and hopes to continue discussions of what might be natural areas for collaboration.
It’s a topic of discussion among South Shore managers, who meet frequently to talk about how to better share services, and in turn, provide better services to the community.
“Part of our responsibilities as good managers is to look where we can increase efficiency and maintain or improve service levels,” Vinchesi said.
Scituate and Marshfield both worked with other towns on coordinating recent changes in health insurance, sharing proposals with surrounding communities to make sure changes were universal.
Additionally, Longo said Marshfield is meeting with other towns to discuss collaboration, which will be key moving forward.
"To continue to exist we have to think outside the box and think a lot more about collaborations. The economic situation is so dire, and we’re not always going to raise revenues, we have to be creative, this is one of the ways to meet the needs," Longo said.
Scituate is pushing that methodology even further, combining Veteran Services with the town of Hingham.
“You’re going to continue to see those types of things, but with the grant opportunity, it gives us an opportunity to explore grant efforts or funding to improve services,” Vinchesi said.
If the funding is available next year, a decision that will become apparent when the House releases its budget numbers, Vinchesi hopes to apply for other opportunities.
“If they reauthorize the project funding this year, we will apply again and find out how we can be more competitive now that the first initial round of grants have been awarded and we know the things they will be inclined to fund,” Vinchesi said. “The grant is another resource … It’s worth the time and the effort to pursue.”
Vinchesi also said the town hopes to work within its existing budget to help streamline operations, though the possibility of regionalizing without additional funds truly depends on the project.