TOPSHAM — The town manager and Brunswick’s acting town manager will meet to develop recommendations for moving ahead with regional cost-saving strategies.
“This is a new beginning,” Board of Selectmen Chairman Ron Riendeau said following a one-hour workshop Feb. 4, where his board hosted the Brunswick Town Council.
“The key element (in cooperation) is going to be the two administrators,” Brunswick Councilor David Watson said, referring to Topsham Town Manager Jim Ashe and Brunswick Acting Town Manager Gary Brown.
Watson’s colleague Councilor Gerald Favreau pointed out that if his board had known ahead of time that Topsham is building a new salt shed, Brunswick could have built a bigger one to share with Topsham.
“That’s the purpose of having the administrators very closely working together,” Watson said.
In that vein, Selectman Sandra Consolini mused that if Brunswick and Topsham were shopping for police cruisers at the same time, they could buy them together and save money.
Brunswick Councilor Hallie Daughtry said that in the current economic times, the two boards should explore what they can do together to share staff or equipment and combine resources.
“It’s really become a regionalization philosophy today,” Watson said. “We’re now one community, at least I think, and I think the communities around us are dependent on us for their survival. If we fail, they fail.”
Favreau suggested that grant money could be available to help the towns study regionalization.
Board members discussed the idea of a subcommittee to hammer out ways to work together for the benefit of both communities. Along with the towns’ respective managers and elected officials, the members suggested citizens and business owners could be involved.
Watson pointed out that Brunswick currently shares general assistance services with Bath, and that potentially, this cooperation could extend to Topsham.
“We could pool our money and provide better services,” he said, also mentioning that the towns’ fire departments already provide mutual aid to each other.
Selectman Jim Trusiani took a more reserved approach to cooperative cost-sharing. He noted that a large chunk of municipal spending goes toward salaries.
“If this table is really serious about saving a lot of money,” he said, “then you’d better get the chainsaws out and start cutting personnel across the board.”
Trusiani added, though, that he does not think Topsham has enough police, fire, EMS and public works employees.