The Urge to Merge



I have not lived here long, but even I could have told Town Manager Robin Crosbie that she was going to make front-page news when, a few weeks ago, she proposed the possibility of merging the Utilities Department with the Department of Public Works.

This was certain to set off alarms — perhaps something like the alarms that must have gone off some time ago, when someone, I imagine, proposed merging the Cemeteries Department with the Parks Department. I guess the merger of Cemeteries with Parks happened some time before I arrived in Ipswich. Well, come to think of it, 98.9% of everything that has ever happened in Ipswich happened before I arrived in Ipswich.

In spite of whatever squawking may have occurred, the merger of Cemeteries and Parks apparently went through. Which is why Ipswich today has a department called Cemeteries & Parks — the quick and the dead, but in reverse order.

Ipswich also seems to have a history of merging something with nothing. Not too long ago, someone suggested combining the Recreation Department, which already existed, with Culture, which technically didn’t. Not that Ipswich didn’t have culture; it just didn’t have a department of it, with a capital C. So now we have something commonly referred to as “Rec & Culture,” which unfortunately sounds like “Wreck & Culture,” although it is, I can assure you, definitely working beautifully. The Rec & Culture Committee is headed by my friend David Wallace, who is completely cultural, and not in any way a wreck. Also, I need to speak highly of the Rec & Culture Committee because my wife is a member, and I need a place to sleep.

So now, we find ourselves contemplating the prospect of Utilities and Public Works being co-mingled, like so many bodily fluids. I imagine some folks will find it unsettling. (“Curbside composting and sewage, all under one roof?”)

Nah, not to worry. This move will increase efficiency.

Consider the simple, scientific reality of the situation, as follows: The folks who keep squirmy little organisms out of your tap water (Utilities) really ought to be the same folks who receive and deal with your hazardous household wastes (Public Works). Plus, it only makes sense for the people who generate your electricity to be the same people who take your dead fluorescent tubes. Let them light us up and take care of us when we go dark.

I predict this merger will be very successful. It may even inspire other mergers down the line. Maybe we could merge the Planning Board with the Historical Commission, so we can look forward and backward simultaneously.

Or combine the Conservation Department with the Council on Aging: Preserve the trees, and the people too!

Or let’s say we merge the Fire Department with the Board of Assessors. This way, when an ungrateful taxpayer feels burned, there’s someone to put out the fire.

Or — yes, this is the best idea of all — a super-merger! Here it is: FinCom + Assessors + Collector/Treasurer + Purchasing + Cemetery/Parks + Shade Tree Beautification Committee.

It’s perfect. This way, Ipswich can take your money, kill you spending it, bury you, and plant a tree over your gravesite.

As my contribution to the town I love, I volunteer to water the tree.


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