Ivan Beattie, second from right, makes a point during Thursday’s special concurrent meeting of the Manchester and Dorset Select Boards.
Ivan Beattie, second from right, makes a point during Thursday's special concurrent meeting of the Manchester and Dorset Select Boards. (Andrew McKeever Photo)
MANCHESTER -- The Dorset and Manchester Select Boards held an unusual, historic, and perhaps unique, joint meeting Thursday afternoon at the Bennington County Courthouse in Manchester Village.

The purpose of the meeting was to review and discuss a proposal that would authorize a study, estimated to possibly cost about $30,000, which both towns would contribute towards, that would explore ways both towns could cooperate and possibly save money by consolidating emergency and public safety services, such as police, fire and rescue.

Both boards unanimously approved a so-called "memorandum of understanding" at the conclusion of the roughly hour-long meeting, which encouraged both to pursue potential avenues of cooperation.

Both the select boards of Manchester and Dorset met Thursday afternoon to discuss an agreement to collaborate on exploring ways both towns could cooperate
Both the select boards of Manchester and Dorset met Thursday afternoon to discuss an agreement to collaborate on exploring ways both towns could cooperate on fire, police and emergency safety services. If voters approve an item on the Town Meeting warnings of both towns, a study group may be formed to identify possible areas of collaboration. (Andrew McKeever photo)
The agreement is not legally binding, according to the language of the agreement.

Both Ivan Beattie, the chairman of the Manchester Select Board, and Chris Brooks, the chairman of the Dorset Select Board, stressed the step was a preliminary one.

One of the paragraphs in the agreement stipulates that both boards will warn, as part of their 2014 Town Meetings, to study the issues using "a professional or academic institution.... to analyze and make recommendations about governance management and administration, of police services, fire services, emergency medical services and emergency management related to increased collaboration..."

If such an article gains approval from voters at town meeting, both boards would then issue a "request for proposals" by April 30, 2014, and form a workgroup. The study is expected to formally start, assuming voter approval, around July 15, 2014, with an eye towards completing it by Nov. 30.

The ultimate cost would be divided 64/36 - with Manchester picking up 64 percent of the eventual cost and Dorset paying for the remaining 36 percent. This formula was arrived at through a calculation of respective grand lists.

Currently, Dorset relies on the Vermont State Police for police enforcement, and has two fire departments; one based in East Dorset and the other in Dorset. Manchester operates its own municipal police department as well as a volunteer fire department. The Manchester Rescue Squad covers both Manchester and Dorset.

At left, Dorset Town Manager Rob Gaiotti listens while Select board Chairman Chris Brooks, at right, makes a point during Thursday’s special meeting
At left, Dorset Town Manager Rob Gaiotti listens while Select board Chairman Chris Brooks, at right, makes a point during Thursday's special meeting between the Manchester and Dorset Select Boards. (Andrew McKeever Photo)