MANCHESTER -- Last week, at their respective select board meetings, Dorset and Manchester executed a contract with New Hampshire-based Municipal Resource Institute -- MRI -- to lead the public safety study. The company, founded in 1986, is according to their website, "dedicated to providing professional, technical and management support services to mu ni cipalities, schools and other non-profit organizations throughout New England.
Rob Gaiotti, town manager of Dorset and member of the public safety study committee said MRI offered a balanced approach between the quantitative, number crunching and budgetary side combined with the qualitative, with their work in Northern New England, in towns and municipalities similar to the two towns.
"The entire group was very comfortable with Don Jutton, the principal partner, in terms of interviews," he said. "His responses were well received."
The public safety study formed in December of 2013 after a memorandum of understanding was signed between Dorset and Manchester. The group was tasked to look at the feasibility of whether or not public safety services -- police, fire and rescue -- could in some way be combined to better service both communities.
In an op-ed piece published in The Journal last December, co-written by Ivan Beattie, the chairman of the Manchester select board and Chris Brooks, the chairman of the Dorset Select Board, the two town officials stated that this study could help assist in long term emergency services planning for both towns, and possibly create efficiencies in municipal services.
"Dorset, like man other Vermont towns, has recently experienced an increase in property theft. Due to this trend the Dorset Select Board has set a goal to research long-term law enforcement strategies," they wrote. "Recently the Dorset Planning Commission surveyed residents about future planning issues. The residents resoundingly expressed their interest in increased law enforcement services."
Both Beattie and Brooks continued, stating that this approach of the working group and the study would allow an in-depth look at how collaboration between towns could be utilized and how to continue to provide a high level of fire, rescue and law enforcement in the area.
First, the group composed of government and public safety officials, as well as private citizens learned how each of the groups involved works and studied their budget. Then came time to release a request for proposals and find a consultant. Giaotti said the time line for the study in the request for proposals was to finish the study by Nov. 30, and the group hopes to reach that goal. This will help in the budget and Town Meeting preparation, he said.
"The whole reason [for hiring a consultant] is for someone to step out side and look at stuff from a different perspective," he said.
The study will include interviews and study of each of the public safety groups, as well as input from the public. Giaotti said public input could come in the form of online surveys, as a way to continually gather information.
"The purpose is to get ongoing input not only from the stakeholders, but the public at large," he said.
While the end of the study is months away, at the end Gaiotti said there will be some sort of formal presentation. It may be in front of both select boards at a joint meeting, or as a portion of their regularly scheduled times.
"They will present the findings, answer questions and help to recap the whole process," he said. "We’re still waiting to see what the consultants come up with."