By Anne O’Connor
AYER — Ayer, Shirley and Dunstable joined the ranks of Massachusetts municipalities that have signed Community Compact agreements with the state, agreeing to implement best practices in exchange for state assistance.
Officials from the three towns met with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito to sign the agreements at Ayer Town Hall Thursday.
The technical assistance the state provides through the program allows cities and towns to address self-identified needs, Polito said.
While both she and Gov. Charlie Baker have municipal experience, the towns are in the best position to identify their own needs, Polito said. The Community Compact process provides officials a chance to talk about where their community is and where it is headed, she said.
The program, begun in January 2015, is voluntary on the part of the municipalities and the state provides the funding, Polito said.
Out of the 351 cities and towns in the commonwealth, the three towns represented in Ayer are numbers 123, 124 and 125 to sign on, the lieutenant governor said.
Technical assistance is just one of the benefits Community Compact towns receive.
“The sky’s the limit,” she said. By signing the compact, the municipalities receive bonus points when competing for certain state grants.
It is a pleasure for the state to help, she said.
The assistance with developing cutting-edge policies through the Community Compact program is really a step in the right direction, said Robert Pontbriand, town administrator in Ayer.
The town will receive assistance in developing a cyber-security strategy. A consultant will help in the development of policies and documents.
Shirley will work with the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission and the Massachusetts Office of Business Development to explore housing and economic development and to adopt best practices in financial policies.
Much of the economic development work is currently done by volunteers, said Bob Prescott, the chairman of the Shirley Board of Selectmen.
At some point, the town may hire a planner, said Town Administrator Patrice Garvin.
Long-range planning along with sustainable development and land protection are the two areas Dunstable will target. They plan to update the Master Plan which is 17 years old, said Town Administrator Tracey Hutton. The North Middlesex Council of Government will assist the town in developing a new plan.
“Let’s let the good work begin,” Polito said before signing the compacts.
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