It has been tried before with some success, but officials in Hampden and Hermon, two Bangor suburbs that share a lengthy border, have revisited the discussion of sharing resources and possibly personnel.
The idea was hatched in part because of municipal budget shortfalls in both communities, but also because Hermon is planning for the retirement of longtime Fire Chief Larry Willis later this year. Many years ago, Hampden changed its administrative structure to create a public safety director to oversee both the police and fire departments. Hermon Town Manager Clint Deschene said his town now wants to explore the possibility of sharing fire department personnel with Hampden.
“It seems like we try a lot [to work together],” Deschene said, adding that other towns have been approached as well. “It’s not always easy, but it never hurts to keep lines of communication open.”
Hermon officials attended a workshop before the Hampden Town Council meeting on Monday to preliminarily discuss the idea. Hampden Town Manager Sue Lessard said the discussion was positive.
“I think that everyone who attended approached the topic with an open mind,” she said. “There is a lot of ground that would need to be covered, and part of that is connected to Hermon defining what it’s looking for. But, we could respond to anything.”
Hampden consolidated its police and fire administrations before when Lessard took the job as town manager in 2000, but she said it has resulted in savings.
“Most planning around regionalization doesn’t save money immediately, so it’s a matter of recognizing the possibility of long-term savings,” she said.
Lessard pointed out, however, that there are some differences between Hermon and Hampden when it comes to public safety. Hermon, for instance, contracts with a private company for emergency response and ambulance calls, while Hampden firefighters respond to their own emergency calls.
Sharing resources is not a new idea. In the past, Hampden and Hermon shared a code enforcement officer, but once the towns began to grow, one person could no longer do both jobs effectively. Officials in Bangor and Brewer recently created a joint committee to explore areas of collaboration and efficiencies between the two cities.
Hampden and Hermon officials plan to continue further joint discussions with the understanding that the talks may or may not lead to anything.
“Simply the openness of two communities talking about potentially hard subjects is a very positive step,” Lessard said. “I think we all recognize that it’s unaffordable for every town to be an island.”