Implementing Your Project

Develop a Transition Plan

It is important to develop a transition plan that identifies and addresses the possible obstacles to implementation and maps out a strategy to achieve the goals of the involved communities. A thoroughly developed transition plan will help stakeholders make a seamless transition.

Developing a transition plan involves a number of strategies, including:

  • obtaining technical assistance to facilitate the transition to a shared service program. The Regionalization Advisory Commission recommended that the Commonwealth develop incentives and funding programs for activities in support of regionalization, including facilitation and technical assistance for planning, implementation, host agency capacity building and transition and start-up costs;
  • including key personnel.  Implementing regionalization or shared service programs affects many municipal employees, often by reduction in staff or reassignment to new duties. Successful implementation will include stakeholders and other personnel who will or may be directly or indirectly impacted by regionalizing.  Often key personnel include department heads and managers, and other senior staff, and
  • maintaining clear communication with all stakeholders is important before, during and after the transition period.  Questions and concerns will arise following implementation, and developing a procedure to answer these concerns is important to allow for a smoother implementation process.

Appoint an Advisory/Oversight Committee to Monitor Progress

In some cases, an advisory committee to oversee a project or service is advisable.  Among its duties, the committee can ensure that the legal agreement and any transition plan is honored, determine on-going project needs, help develop budgets and policies for the program, and provide a means of communication between participating communities.  If the committee consists of town representatives that are not chief elected officials, it is important to determine in advance the decision-making authority of committee members on behalf of the community.

Examples of Shared Services Administrative Boards (Advisory/Oversight Committees) in Massachusetts

The Franklin County Cooperative Inspection Program (FCCIP): FCCIP works with 14 towns. FCCIP was originally governed by a board of directors with a selectman or other designee appointed by the participating town. Currently, after merging with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, FCCIP maintains its board in an advisory capacity.

West Suburban Veterans’ District: The district consists of three municipalities in eastern Massachusetts: Needham, Wellesley and Weston. The district board consists of chief municipal executive from each town. The board appoints a full-time director and administrative assistant.

Regional Housing Services Office: The RHSO has six member communities: Bedford, Concord, Lexington, Lincoln, Weston and the Town of Sudbury, which acts as the host town. An advisory committee coordinates and manages all aspects of the RHSO. The committee is composed of one member from each municipality and meets quarterly.[/blockquote]

Example of Shared Services Administrative Boards Outside of Massachusetts

Capitol Region Council of Governments Regional Online Permitting Program
This program is a pilot program for the Connecticut Regional E-Government Initiative (CREGI). Eight towns are participating in this first stage of the program. The goal of CREGI is to promote more responsive and efficient local government services through a regional approach to technology.

Use a Fiscal Agent to Handle Revenues and Expenses

Participants in regionalization projects should designate a fiscal agent for the program. There are several options: choose a fiscal agent that is already working with one of the participating municipalities, work with a neutral fiscal agent or work with an outside entity, such as a regional planning agency.

Although hiring a fiscal agent will cost the program some resources, ultimately it will eliminate the need for one of the municipalities to handle the financial requirements of a new program and reduce any problems that could arise.

Examples of Shared Service Fiscal Agents

Shelburne and Buckland Shared Wastewater Treatment Facility
This facility is located in Buckland, and the operation of the facility is handled as a department of the Town of Buckland. Buckland oversees the staff, receives the revenue, and issue paychecks and vendor payments. Shelburne contributes to the shared cost through an inter-municipal agreement.

Quabbin Health District
The district is a joint effort of the boards of health of three towns: Belchertown, Ware and Pelham. The district maintains a staff that includes a full-time director and inspector. The district’s staff provides their own fiscal services.

Franklin County Cooperative Inspection Program (FCCIP)
FCCIP began in 1975 as a stand-alone program. It merged with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) in 2004. The FRCOG currently provides fiscal and administrative oversight for the program.

Pilot Implementation

The participants may consider establishing and operating a smaller scale pilot program prior to fully launching a new program.  Pilot programs should cover all aspects of the larger, proposed program and are often a good way of determining unforeseen issues or other consequences that may later arise.  Although there are short-term costs to this method, a pilot program can help save time and resources in the long term.  Successful pilot programs may also spark an interest in other communities to either join the project or replicate the project elsewhere.

Services Pilot Programs

Shelburne Falls Collaborative Pilot Composting Program
Following a sustainability assessment, the Shelburne Falls Area Business Association (SFABA) developed and implemented a pilot composting program in the summer of 2010. The program included five food establishments.

Establish an Evaluation Method to Assess the Implementation Process

It is a best practice to create an evaluation method to assess the progress of a new program. A good evaluation helps in multiple ways:

  • It helps determine the program’s impact and identify overall strengths and weaknesses to improve program’
  • It verifies that the program is currently running as planned and provides evidence of effectiveness; and
  • It identifies where further work is required and provides data to help replicate the program.

One challenge to creating an evaluation method is finding the resources to pay for expertise to conduct a meaningful evaluation. In addition, it may take several years for the programs to produce measurable data.

Examples of Regional Service Evaluations

Shelburne Falls Collaborative Program Assessment
The Shelburne Falls Area Business Association (SFABA) contracted with an outside consultant to develop an assessment of the pilot program. The assessment looked at whether the program was still supported by participating businesses, the cost effectiveness for businesses, whether the program was likely to remain viable at current scale, whether the program was expandable to include additional businesses, and what parts of the program needed improvement and how to achieve those improvements.