Good, let's see how it works before every community is forced to give up local control.
Portland Press Herald
Tuesday, April 29, 2003
Regionalization must start locally, Baldacci saysBy SELENA RICKS, Portland Press Herald WriterCopyright Â© 2003 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc. Â
If municipal leaders want to use regionalization as a method for saving money during tough economic times, discussions need to begin at the local level, Gov. John Baldacci said f+ttold local officials at a meeting of the Greater Portland Council of Governments Monday."This has to be locally driven," said Baldacci. "This isn't going to be driven out of Augusta. We will help coordinate and provide long-term direction, but you know your communities better."The Democratic governor, who has been promoting regionalization since he took office in January, was invited to speak at GPCOG's latest meeting on the topic. The municipally owned agency has hosted a series of forums on issues facing the region, including transportation, housing and economic development.So far, the agency has helped form three regional coalitions to tackle plans for growth and shared services: the Coastal Corridor Coalition, which includes Cumberland, Falmouth, Freeport and Yarmouth; the Central Corridor Coalition, which includes Cumberland, Gray, New Gloucester, North Yarmouth, Pownal, Raymond and Windham; and the Western Corridor Coalition, which includes Scarborough, Gorham, Standish, Sebago and Naples.[b]Regionalization efforts in Southern Maine are setting a model for the rest of the state, said Baldacci, and "helping to send the message that this is the way to go."[/b]Baldacci said communities such as Millinocket and the Lewiston-Auburn area are working on shared services, but in other parts of the state, "I can't get neighboring communities to talk to each other."The second part of the governor's proposed $5.3 billion biennial budget would set aside $1 million during the second year of the two-year budget cycle to provide financial incentives for consolidation at the municipal level. Baldacci said he could not yet provide details on what those incentives will be, but he hopes that they will reward actions rather than studies and commissions.Baldacci plans to present his regionalization incentives proposal during deliberations on tax reform. "If we want to hold the line on taxes we need to do a better job on delivering services at the state level, county level and local level," he said. "We need to begin that (regionalization) process, and the budget has helped us move in that direction."Lawmakers must address a $48 million state budget shortfall before July 1, and the governor sees consolidation of services as a way to reduce state spending over the long term. He said consolidation of functions at the state level, such as the proposed merger of the Department of Human Services and the Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services, will become a focal point of his administration. "There's no area that's immune from this," he said.Jim Long, chairman of the Old Orchard Beach Town Council, said Monday that municipal officials should take advantage of the economic slump to form partnerships for greater efficiency."If we don't use this fiscal crisis to think about delivering services, when the next boom surfaces this will all have been forgotten," said Long. "I'm afraid we'll lose a great opportunity."Staff Writer Selena Ricks can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: email@example.com [url=http://www.pressherald.com/news/statehouse/030429baldacci.shtml]http://w...