The results of the online Municipal Services Regionalization Survey are in. Over 300 local elected and appointed officials - town managers, department heads, aldermen or town or city council members, mayors - opened the survey and took the time to answer each of the 30+ questions.

No surprise here, but there is strong interest in sharing field services such as building, health, wiring and plumbing inspection; animal control; ambulance/EMT; dispatch; council on aging staff; weights and measures; revaluation services; recreation programming; software; and highway equipment and operators. In fact, none of the services in the survey posted a majority in opposition to sharing. The service with the smallest majority in favor of sharing was the town accountant, with 46 percent opposed to sharing.

Overall, loss of local control was chosen as the main barrier to sharing. On a scale of 1 to 10, the single highest barrier to regionalization or sharing services was loss of local control, at 6.22; followed by institutional resistance at 5.67; differences with neighbors at 5.55; funding at 5.32; getting started, at 4.87; and collective bargaining at 4.71.

How best to share? There was no wildly predominant view, although host agencies saw the most interest: 16 percent favored sharing between a town or city and a school district; 15 percent favored sharing services with their town or city as lead; 21 percent favored sharing services with another town or city as lead; and 28 percent favored purchasing services from a host agency to cover all costs and benefits; while 20 percent had "other" ideas. If everyone wants somebody else to "lead" or carry the "burden" the 28 percent interested in host agencies is more meaningful.

In terms of moving forward, 29 percent wanted assistance with feasibility studies and financial analysis; 25 percent wanted facilitation of planning; 27 percent wanted funding for transition costs; 14 percent wanted legal help; and 5 percent had other suggestions.

City and Town will publish the complete survey results, as well as the program from the Regionalization Conference held today at Holy Cross College in Worcester, at mid-month. Thanks to all of you who took the time to respond to this invaluable survey.

Robert G. Nunes