Governor Signs Bill to Allow Lenox, Lee and Stockbridge to Share Administrator
BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday signed a bill that will allow the towns of Lee, Lenox, and Stockbridge, if they so choose, to share a town administrator on a regional or joint basis.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox.
Last December, Pignatelli was joined by Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito as 17 towns in Southern Berkshire County signed a Community Compact in which they committed to exploring future collaboration in education, public works, public safety and human services. Since then, several towns have jointly purchased equipment, Lee and Lenox have hired a joint building inspector, and Berkshire Hills and Shaker Mountain Schools have hired a shared superintendent. Stockbridge, Lee, and Lenox have been working with the Division Local Services (a branch of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue) over the last nine months to develop a blueprint of an intermunicipal agreement for a shared town administrator.
The bill, developed in consultation with the State Ethics Commission, creates a limited exemption to a portion of the Massachusetts conflict of interest law in order to allow any of these three towns to share a town administrator. Under existing state law, two or more towns may currently enter into intermunicipal agreements that allow for shared employees. However, according to a 2012 opinion by the State Ethics Commission, a specific exemption in the form of legislation is required in order for a municipality to share an administrator whose duties would potentially include discussing, recommending and implementing regional or joint solutions for delivery of municipal services.
"My number one priority this session has been to support our towns to move towards increased collaboration with the goal of streamlining and enhancing services and providing taxpayer relief, while maintaining the unique identity of each of these wonderful communities," Pignatelli said. "I am in awe of the multiple ways in which communities have stepped up to work towards these goals with me, and a shared town administrator would be boldest step yet. The decision of whether or not to take advantage of this opportunity is now up to town leaders in Lenox, Stockbridge and Lee."
Baker echoed those sentiments.
"I'm pleased to sign legislation supporting the commitment of Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge to work collaboratively to share services and resources," he said. "Just as our Community Compact program under Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito has promoted the sharing of municipal best practices, this pilot partnership will allow communities to explore the sharing of services across town borders."
State Sen. Benjamin Downing, who was unable to attend the signing on Thursday but was a co-sponsor of the legislation, also praised the bill.
"The proposal by Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge to share a town administrator is yet another example of the Berkshires leading in collaboration across town borders," he said. "I'm pleased that this legislation will allow them to see it through."
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