Shared Services a Focus of Mayors' Meeting
Despite impasse on regional schools feasibility study, town leaders to discuss other forms of working together.
While the town’s leaders in the region are getting the band back together, the set list is going to have a different tune in 2013.
Mayors from Washington Township, the Chesters and Mendhams will reconvene—their first gathering since August 2012—Thursday at the Chester Borough Municipal Building to discuss, well, anything they want.
The group first began meeting publicly in the spring of 2012 as an advisory committee alongside members of the area’s school boards to potentially come to terms on a regional feasibility study. The purpose of the study was to find financial and educational gains in a potential restructuring of the area’s schools.
An impasse was the outcome, as Mendham Township and Chester Borough couldn’t agree with the other three towns on what the feasibility study should analyze.
But the leaders didn’t think one disagreement should end all discussions, and have decided to seek alternate ways of working together.
The Thursday meeting won’t have any school board members or Christine Meyers-Gorski, former chairperson of the advisory group, and will have one new participant–Rick Merkt, who was chosen as mayor of Mendham Township in 2013, replacing Sam Tolley.
At Mendham Township’s recent committee meeting, Merkt said, “I plan to continue the work Sam Tolley began in meeting with our neighboring mayors and I look forward to seeing what kinds of opportunities there are for shared service," Merkt said. "I received a list from (Administrator) Steve Mountain the other day and I was surprised how much we already share."
Washington Township Mayor Ken Short, who has known Merkt for the better part of a decade, echoed those sentiments, but hopes the towns can explore even more ways of helping one another and, ultimately, saving money.
“I’d really like to explore shared services with the other mayors,” Short said. “What are the cost savings in certain areas? Let’s explore those. But we have to remember one town can’t benefit on behalf of another–there has to be sacrifice on both ends.”
Washington Township currently shares Chief Financial Officer Kevin Lifer with Chester in addition to its health department.
Mendham Borough Mayor Neil Henry said he’s not sure what shape the meeting will take, but believes it may tie into Hurricane Sandy.
"I haven't seen an official agenda but I would suspect the Mayors will focus discussion on Emergency Management and any possible shared opportunities which may be available in this area,” Henry said. “All of this is a follow up to what all of the towns experienced during Hurricane Sandy."
For Short, an open mind and strength in numbers is the best way to head into the meeting.
“There’s got to be some way to join together and become more efficient,” Short said. “(The towns) have so many of the same structures in place, and there’s efficiency in numbers. Just having an open conversation is a good start.”
The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31 at Chester Borough Municipal Building.