Let’s face it—when it comes to finding solutions to a challenge, more than likely, someone else has gone through exactly what you’re going through. Or something very similar. Learning from the experiences of others can help save valuable time and resources.
MVPC represents 15 individual communities in the region, and has learned that although they are all very different, many of the challenges they face are very similar. Recognizing and supporting community individuality while promoting community cooperation and development is paramount to MVPCs mission. That’s why we take a strategic regional approach to solving issues—by looking at common needs, mutual problem solving helps everyone across the region.
Regionalization Best Practices Website
MVPC, as a member of the Massachusetts Association of Regional Planning Agencies (MARPA) collaborated with the Commonwealth’s twelve other Regional Planning Agencies to develop a new MARPA Regionalization Best Practices Website (www.regionalbestpractices.org). This site, unveiled in September 2012, details the Commonwealth’s 351 municipalities’ efforts to maintain or improve the essential services that they provide to residents, businesses and visitors. Here, you can learn about innovative tools being implemented including joint procurements, shared services agreements and creation of regional districts.
You can also navigate this set according to your prospective interest in regionalization, whether you are a chief elected official, department head, employee, interested citizen or goods/services vendor. Further, the website features some Merrimack Valley regionalization initiatives now underway (see details below). Going forward, the MVPC will provide updates for the website content to feature the latest information on relevant laws and regulations, new projects, and Best Practices for municipal government inter-local cooperation and shared services.
Regional Success Stories
Merrimack Valley Mayors & Managers Coalition
Q. What do 5 Mayors and 3 town Managers have in common?
A. The desire to identify common challenges and work together to find solutions.
In 2007 the forming of the Merrimack Valley Mayors & Managers Coalition struck a chord with the communities and helped pave the way for regional problem solving. MVPC provides the administrative, personnel, and expertise support necessary to implement their programs, which include:
- Advocacy with the region’s State and Federal legislative delegation
- Joint procurement
- Regionalization of services
This regional Coalition led to specific collaborations:
- Joint procurement:
- Since 2008, DPW Directors from the region’s communities have collectively procured services for roadway maintenance. Please see the results of the latest Merrimack Valley Regional Services Consortium Invitation for Bid Summary.
- Regionalization of services
- The City of Amesbury and the Town of Salisbury collaborated on a joint public health services district. MVPC provided technical support and drafted the contract.
- A pool of professional inspectors was created to form a Regional Inspectional Services Program.
- Four Communities (Amesbury, Andover, Haverhill and Newburyport) are collaborating to improve administrative functions such as workload management, strategic asset management, and citizen response through the regional deployment of Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) software. Communities will gain improved internal department communication and a new, direct external customer interface.
- In 2015 the EPA released the draft MS4 permit for Massachusetts. All 15 MVPC member communities formed the Merrimack Valley Stormwater Collaborative in an effort to work together on regional approaches to cost-effective stormwater management.
- Energy Programs
- MVPC completed the Merrimack Valley Clean Energy Action Plan, in cooperation with the Merrimack Valley Mayors and Managers Coalition. The Plan is an action oriented document, developed with advice and guidance from all MVPC’s communities, and offers specific recommendations for each city and town in the region to advance their energy goals. In developing this Plan, one common theme was clear; the region’s communities are united and determined to reduce their energy consumption and lower their energy costs. As staffing levels and municipal budgets allow, they will work towards that goal, and MVPC will be here with our energy management plan in place to assist.
- One of the first actions was the formation of the Merrimack Valley Energy Management Program to help communities develop energy management strategies and conservation programs. It is administered by MVPC with technical assistance provided by the Peregrine Energy Group. The need for an Energy Services Company (ESCO) to implement energy conservation improvements on public buildings was identified, and MVPC facilitated ESCO services for interested communities in the region.
- Developing solar energy farms on closed landfills in the region, a concept coined as turning “Brownfields” into “Brightfields,” is another example of collaboration. MVPC commissioned an analysis by Meridian Associates on various landfills to determine if they are suitable candidates for renewable energy. Interested communities with suitable sites will work with solar energy developers to bring the “Brightfields” program to the Merrimack Valley.
- To advance renewable energy projects, the Merrimack Valley Renewable Energy Management Program was formed to help communities that want to construct renewable energy projects identify suitable sites, prepare RFQs for Power Development Companies, evaluate proposals and monitor implementation. An opportunity to collaborate on soliciting the purchase of solar net metering credits aggregation was identified in the Energy Plan and a joint RFP was issued, which will encourage the development of solar farms in the region and save those communities purchasing net metering credits approximately 35% on their energy bills.
- The communities are also collaborating on the purchasing of electricity and an electric aggregation RFP was issued to obtain the services of a consultant to help the communities organized a community wide campaign to purchase electricity directly from suppliers, issue a RFP for the electricity, negotiate final costs and monitor the implementation.
Regional Planning Day 2015
On October 16th in Haverhill over 100 people attended the “Rising with the Tides” event organized by the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce with the support of MVPC. This event was organized as a unique opportunity to showcase the Merrimack River’s symbolic and functional importance. Speakers highlighted the River’s evolution as a natural resource, a locus of employment, and how specific revitalization and transportation projects along the river are creating new living, working and recreating opportunities for future generations.
Stacey Bruzzese and Tom Mortimer of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce provided opening remarks, followed by a welcome from Mayor Fiorentini. Congresswoman Nikki Tsongas cited the importance of a shared vision for the region and the need to sustain existing revitalization efforts in her keynote address. Participants then focused upon the moderators and speakers in the following panel discussions:
- Bill Pillsbury, City of Haverhill Planner, moderated the Development Panel. Ron Trombley and Sally Cerasuolo- O’Rorke of the Greater Haverhill Foundation highlighted Haverhill’s progress in revising its regulations and permitting procedures to stimulate construction of housing, mixed-use development, and transportation amenities in its Downtown. Noah Koretz provided an overview of MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative for Downtown Haverhill, and Dave Traggorth of Traggorth Companies added his expertise in site selection for mixed-use development projects.
- Scott Cole, from the Pentucket Bank, was the Moderator for the Live and Work Panel. Lane Glenn of Northern Essex Community College and Steven Tello of UMass-Lowell each talked about their institution’s unique and shared roles in preparing the region’s students for tomorrow’s economy. MVPC’s Dennis DiZoglio showed how important the river has been in shaping the Valley’s civic and economic life, and offered the MVPC staff’s planning and programming assistance.
Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives moderated the Recreation Panel. Panelist Dave Goodwin of the Greater Haverhill Foundation described the recently completed Merrimack River access study and its importance to transportation and recreation; Mark Cutter of the U.S. Coast Guard discussed river navigation issues and opportunities; Mike Vets, Groveland and Haverhill Harbormaster spoke about increased marine activity on the river, and Ann Marie Casey of the North of Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau underscored tourism’s importance to the region’s economy.
Merrimack Valley Means Business & Merrimack Valley Priority Growth Strategy
As a pioneer in thought leadership and regional collaborator, MVPC is constantly seeking innovative ways of doing things in an already established field, as exemplified in these two regional projects:
Merrimack Valley Means Business (MVMB.biz) is a tool to promote economic development in the region. The website allows prospective businesses to search for commercial and industrial sites for lease or sale throughout the region. It also provides community profiles and data that highlights priority development areas, quick links to key municipal officials, and business incentive programs. The website was updated in 2015 and is a result of the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) and Merrimack Valley Priority Growth Strategy, designed to help the business community identify and evaluate potential existing or developable business sites throughout the region.
Merrimack Valley Priority Growth Strategy is the official planning policy for all of Merrimack Valley and its 15 communities, it was updated and adopted by the Commission in 2015. It serves as the basis for identifying strategic priorities throughout the region and identifies Priority Development Areas (PDA) where communities want to encourage growth while suggesting areas to preserve and protect environmental resources, Priority Preservation Areas (PPA). It also identifies transportation improvements needed to advance these land use decisions.
Merrimack Valley Economic Development Corporation
At the turn of the 20th Century, textile and shoe manufacturers flourished in the Merrimack Valley region, concentrating in Lawrence and Haverhill. When these industrial centers diminished, the communities sought to stimulate the economy and provide financial incentives to small businesses to create job opportunities in the region. MVPC created the Merrimack Valley Economic Development Corporation (MVED) a 501-C-4 not for profit organization to provide business loans throughout the region. Capitalized by a $1,000,000 EDA grant in 1997, MVED has loaned over $2 million and has created or retained over 200 jobs. As a nonprofit community development corporation, MVED can sponsor businesses for various public loans. To date, MVED has arranged for lending to regional businesses from the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation for over $2.5 million.
Regional GIS Service Center
Technology can assist communities be more productive and effective, yet many communities lack the capacity in personnel or technical resources to utilize technology. Working as the state-designated Regional GIS Service Center for northeastern Massachusetts (see M.G.L. Chapter 21, Section 4B), MVPC fosters cooperation among local, state, regional and federal government agencies and the private sector in order to improve the quality, access, cost-effectiveness and utility of Geographical Information System (GIS) as a strategic resource. MVPC provides access to information technology (IT) through the provision of GIS/IT services on a regional basis, with services ranging from:
- Parcel mapping
- Pictometry products
- Municipal Information Mapping Access program (MIMAP)
- Training and support
This strategic regional approach allows MVPC to explore technological innovation and act as a laboratory for new technology, allowing smaller communities to have the latest in technology and support.
Eight Towns & the Great Marsh
Communities along the Northeastern Massachusetts coast decided to use a regional approach to protect this important coastline and associated watersheds. Established in 1992, Eight Towns & the Great Marsh promotes local and regional coastal water quality initiatives, and is comprised of citizens appointed by chief elected officials in each of its nine member communities (Amesbury, Newburyport, Salisbury, Newbury, Rowley, Ipswich, Essex, Gloucester and Rockport). Eight Towns & the Great Marsh works with communities and the general public to foster stewardship of coastal resources by heightening public awareness of solutions to pollution problems, providing technical assistance and supporting local research and education projects. MVPC and the Massachusetts Bays Program provide technical assistance to the committee in the form of coastal project identification, grant writing and site assessment. This initiative has also resulted in the formation of the North Shore Greenscapes and the Great Marsh Coalition.