Leyden Public Safety Advisory Committee meets with consultants, prepares to apply for regionalization grant 

  • Leyden’s Public Safety Advisory Committee met Thursday night to consult with two representatives from the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Collins Center as the committee prepares to seek a state Efficiency and Regionalization grant. Screenshot

Staff Writer
Published: 1/14/2022 4:02:51 PM
Modified: 1/14/2022 4:01:58 PM

LEYDEN — Following Jan. 5’s meeting, the Public Safety Advisory Committee reconvened Thursday night to consult with two representatives from the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Collins Center as the town seeks regionalization grants for its emergency services.

Racing against a Feb. 10 state Efficiency and Regionalization grant application deadline, the seven-member committee sought advice from Mike Edwards and Stephen Foley, two consultants from UMass Boston’s Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management, which provides various services to towns across the state. The Collins Center is subsidized by the state and will receive compensation from the grant if the town decides to go forward with a municipal study of the town’s public safety services.

“We’re brought in to fix problems that have existed for decades. We’re change agents,” Edwards said. “We’re used to operations where we’re pushing uphill against the status quo.”

The town seeks the grant to fund a study to analyze the future of emergency services in Leyden. Edwards believes the town has a good chance to receive the money.

“Based on what we have discussed, the town is a pretty strong candidate for this type of grant,” Edwards said. “They are competitive, but they tend to bend toward smaller communities.”

While Leyden is seeking regionalization options for all of its emergency services, the Police Department is at the top of the list. Public Safety Advisory Committee Chair Elizabeth Kidder said the town can pursue five options: sharing officers between towns, merging departments with another town, eliminating the Police Department entirely and allowing State Police to cover the town, pursue a county sheriff model like other states, or do nothing and leave the department as it is.

Edwards, however, suggested the town try to “hit two things at once” and seek a grant for all of the town’s services. He added there are a “large number of different models that have been used, not just in New England, but across the country.”

“We really should look at everything,” Edwards said. “Why not take the opportunity of the grant and use the funding to cover all of the different pieces.”

Several committee members agreed that a comprehensive look at services would provide a better chance.

“I think we do need to look at the whole picture as well,” commented Jack Golden. “If the Collins Center is willing to do that, then that would be a wonderful addition.”

Edwards said the type of emergency services provided is based on the composition of the town, and the Collins Center will analyze the specific needs of Leyden.

“It’s an aging community and that has an impact on the type of public safety services that are provided,” Edwards explained. “To me, the biggest thing is, how urgent is the police issue?”

As the town seeks potential partners for services, Edwards said Leyden should analyze what neighboring towns have for services and if they have additional capacity. He added he’s “seeing more and more interest” in regional solutions to emergency services.

“What we would look at, most likely, is what are the most logical partners for the services,” Edwards said. “What geographically would make the most sense?”

Selectboard member Erica Jensen asked what advantages could come from sharing policing services, to which Edwards said there are quite a few that result from these partnerships.

“There’s always going to be some advantages,” Edwards said. “By adding that additional area and additional jurisdiction, they pick up a need for additional officers … and it’s a larger organization with more spread between the ranks and more opportunities for advancement.”

While the Public Safety Advisory Committee has been working for several weeks on potential solutions, the committee in its advisory role can only make recommendations to the Selectboard, which will make final decisions. Some committee members expressed their wishes to have the Selectboard attend their meetings so its members could hear all of the details the Public Safety Advisory Committee is hearing.

“It really sounds like we are doing the work that our Selectmen will go do,” said Anders Ferguson. “I don’t hear that we have any decisions to make. I’d like to know — given how hard you and all of us are working — that we could have a productive and thoughtful dialogue that leaves us doing a job we were asked to do.”

Jensen agreed with Ferguson and also suggested the Public Safety Advisory Committee try to garner support from the community.

“Anders, I understand where you’re coming from. Can this go to the Selectboard and be voted down? Yes,” Jensen said. “I think that it would behoove the other Selectboard members to come to these meetings, or to meet separately with Mike and Stephen to get a better understanding.”

Next steps

As the Feb. 10 grant deadline approaches, the committee is meeting remotely again Jan. 19, at 6 p.m. to discuss what members want the Efficiency and Regionalization grant application to look like before sending a draft to the Selectboard for approval. Kidder told the Greenfield Recorder they do not know how much money the grant would provide as the state will make the decision.

“(Our goal) is to get a working draft of the grant prepared so we can review it with the Collins Center and the Selectpeople in town,” Kidder said by phone.

If that draft were to get shot down by the Selectboard or the state does not choose Leyden to receive the grant, then Kidder said the Public Safety Advisory Committee would work with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG), which is also “likely” to apply for the efficiency grant.

“We know that we would tap into any resources available from the FRCOG,” Kidder said. “And we would look for other resources to help us out. And the committee will try to do its own evaluation.”

Kidder added members are reaching out to the Selectboard to try to set up a special meeting separate from regularly scheduled meetings. Kidder added the committee has also assigned each member a public safety service to communicate with.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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