The virtual department of public works being created by the two towns and regional school district may be innovative enough to bring in a sizable grant from the state next year.
Molly Martins, chairman of the Wenham Board of Selectmen, and Town Administrator Mark Andrews met recently with Tim Dodd, the executive director for the state's Community Innovation Challenge Grants. And they were encouraged by him to apply for a grant, Andrews said this week.
The state program, created a year ago by the Patrick administration and funded by the state legislature, is designed to encourage "innovation among local governments through regionalization and other reforms and efficiencies to maintain critical local services and stretch every tax payer dollar as far as possible," the program's web site says.
The towns of Hamilton and Wenham and the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District have been working together for more than a year to leverage off each other's public works projects to gain economies of scale and reduce overall costs.
During this month's meeting of the joint Capital Management Advisory Committee, the towns reported progress in developing a Letter of Agreement among the three government entities to move forward with the Virtual Department of Public Works.
Each town and the schools will maintain their own public works and maintenance programs, but with the virtual DPW, they coordinate projects to find ways to gain efficiencies.
Andrews said the grant from the state could be used to buy computer software to link the town's ticketing system for jobs. He asked Sue Patrolia, a member of the Capital Management Advisory Committee, to assist in developing the grant application.
The legislature is debating how much money will be allocated this year to the challenge grants program. The House voted to allocate about $2 million, while the Senate okayed $4 million for the program, Andrews said.
For this year, 28 communities received grants from the program.