HALLOWELL — With towns and cities across the state tightening their budgets amid inflationary increases, elected officials and municipal managers in three central Maine municipalities have agreed to meet next week to talk about how they can work together to cut costs.

Officials from Hallowell, Manchester, and Farmingdale will meet in the auditorium at the top floor of Hallowell City Hall at 6:30 p.m. Monday for a “Three Town Summit” that will cover all collaborative suggestions, but will focus on potentially merging or sharing resources between the municipalities’ public works and fire departments.

The Hallowell Public Works building on Water Street is seen in July. Kennebec Journal file photo

Hallowell City Manager Gary Lamb began the dialogue with the neighboring Kennebec County towns shortly after he was appointed city manager last year. He said he believes that Maine is behind when it comes to regional and multi-town collaborations.

“You could build a facility right now where two, three, or five towns could do all their conventional customer service transactions in one building — marriage licenses, register anything with an engine and all those things you come to city hall for, including paying taxes,” he said.

Lamb acknowledged that this vision will not become a reality any time soon, but said it makes sense to start by considering sharing public works resources.

Of the three municipalities, Hallowell is the only one that has a full-time public works department. Four people work for the city-run department. Farmingdale has a road commissioner, but contracts labor for most public works tasks. Manchester also relies on contracted assistance to plow and repair roads and maintain public buildings.


Last fall, Lamb reached out to nearby municipalities and said Farmingdale officials expressed a desire for help with plowing roads. The town was paying $10,000 a mile for contracted plowing services.

Gary Lamb

Lamb said he heard similar feedback from Manchester.

“They have the fire chief’s pickup truck and a shovel,” Lamb said about Manchester. “They have nobody for public works.”

Hallowell spends the least of the three towns annually on public works tasks, despite being the only one with its own public works department and all of the associated costs, such as salaries and upkeep and maintenance of the buildings and vehicles.

Farmingdale, according to Ebert, is spending roughly “$409,000, plus salt” for snow plowing services this year.

Manchester is spending $400,000 on winter roads this year, with $313,000 of that dedicated just to plowing. Their summer roads budget is $345,544.


Hallowell’s entire public works department budget this year is $338,185.

Doug Ebert, chairman of the Farmingdale Select Board, said he agreed with Lamb that it could be beneficial to look into ways the three communities could save money by working together.

“We’re trying to do whatever we can to do the best we can to reduce the costs for both the city and the town,” Ebert said.

As part of the resource-sharing, Lamb has suggested constructing a new public works facility that would serve all three communities. While no agreement has been reached, the Hallowell manager identified three possible sites for such a facility, should residents want to go forward with the idea: an empty lot behind an O’Reilly Auto Parts in Farmingdale, a parcel of land on Winthrop Street in Manchester and an area near Hallowell’s brush pile at “The Res,” a large outdoor recreational area.

Lamb said he also hopes to discuss a potential fire department collaboration that would help the three communities respond faster to major fires, particularly ones during the daytime when members of volunteer departments may not be able to leave their day jobs to help.

Doug Ide, chairman of the Manchester Board of Selectmen, agreed that combining fire department resources could be beneficial.


“Like with all fire departments, staffing has been a big issue,” he said, “and if there’s some way that we can combine services in one form or another to expand the coverage that we have and to make it more reliable and to get more responders, then that would be great.”

Ide said solid waste and recycling could also be discussed and that Manchester has numerous independent haulers driving around town every week.

“It’s not an efficient system at all,” he said.

Ide said this is all conceptual, and that the point of the upcoming meeting is to determine what direction the towns could take together.

He commended Lamb for getting the ball rolling on what could be the start of a long-term multi-municipality collaboration.

“I’m really glad Gary (Lamb) arranged it,” Ide said. “I think it’s an excellent opportunity to start what could be a very fruitful conversation.”

Comments are no longer available on this story