It’s hard for smaller towns to afford to do everything a town needs to, which is why some Hi-Line communities have started exploring ways to work together that have worked in other parts of the state already.
At Monday night’s Chinook City Council meeting, City Clerk Lorraine Mulonet described a meeting she attended with representatives from Havre, Harlem, Malta, Dodson and Saco about the possibility of sharing or renting equipment to each other.
Similar community agreements have popped up across the state. Mulonet, and others from the meeting, talked about the system currently set up between Conrad, Cut Bank and Shelby.
Those three cities have collected their funds into one spending fund, which has already gone to some paving and plowing equipment, as well as a separate garage facility for these shared vehicles.
Mulonet said at the meeting that the local communities could pursue a similar path, but it does require a large investment.
Another option that both Mulonet and Harlem Mayor Bill Taylor seem to favor would be to simply increase communication between the city’s and their public works departments, to get an idea for what each town has, what they need and how, if possible, they can work together to get it.
For example, Chinook has been looking this past year at buying a new camera to snake through the city’s old sewer system to identify problems. Their current one runs on VCRs.
The equipment’s expense is a big concern for the city, but that concern could be alleviated by neighboring communities occasionally renting the state-of-the-art equipment and paying a small fees.
Everyone gets access to the best equipment available, and no one takes on the financial burden alone.
Taylor said that a new meeting is being scheduled for some time in the next few weeks to look more closely at this kind of deal between just Harlem, Malta and Chinook, as these towns are the most similar already.
“Some of these towns, like Saco, are so small and Havre is so much larger that it just made sense for these towns that are about the same size in the middle to talk, ” Taylor said.