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End of Hampshire Council of Governments arrives

After more than two years of winding down its operations, the Hampshire Council of Governments is extinct.

The Hampshire Council of Governments, also known as HCG, was the successor to Hampshire County Government. In 2019, it announced its intention to dissolve, giving as reasons the mounting pension and health care liabilities of the county retirees it was responsible for, as well as a downturn in its energy business.

Some of the organization’s programs included its Regional Purchasing Co-op and the Hampshire-Franklin Tobacco-Free Community Partnership.

In January, state legislation was signed that allowed the process of dissolution to be completed – chiefly by transferring an estimated $5.8 million in pension liabilities to the state retirement system.

Rus Peotter, the organization’s last chairperson, said the organization worked hard to complete all the necessary dissolution tasks by the legislation’s early April deadline.

“For the last couple of weeks we’ve been dealing with all the details,” he said.

Those details were resolved by the deadline, including the conveyance of a cell tower once owned by HCG to the town of Goshen.

“I dropped off the boxes of records that have been sitting in my garage,” Peotter said. “We’ve got nothing.”

Those records will now be in the state archives.

Peotter said that while the process of dissolving HCG was difficult and unprecedented, “I don’t think it could have been pulled off any better.”

All of the organization’s programs found homes, he said, almost all employees found employment in their fields, and the retirees HCG was responsible for have been taken care of.

As of fiscal year 2019, Peotter said that to the best of his knowledge HCG employed 20 full and part-time employees.

Peotter did note that it’s ironic to see the large amount of federal money flowing to county governments at this time, and that HCG can not take advantage of it. Nevertheless, he said that HCG had no choice but to take the course of action that it did.

“If we hadn’t done everything we’ve done we would have gone bankrupt a year and a half ago,” he said. “We didn’t have a business model that was sustainable.”

Emails announcing the final dissolution have been sent to all HCG member towns.

Peotter also did express a regret that “we couldn’t have a big party” marking the end of the organization, due to the pandemic.