Could necessity be the mother of regionalization?

York County has been at the forefront of shared services in Pennsylvania, home of both the state's first regional police department – Northern York County – and fire department – York Area United.

Participating municipalities recognized years ago they can save money and avoid duplication by pooling resources to provide the same services to their residents.

Other boroughs and townships have refused to regionalize, however, even as the cost of their emergency services consume greater and greater portions of their budgets.

At this pace, eventually those municipalities will have to pool resources.

Regionalization won't be an option – financially, it will be a necessity if our many small towns want to continue offering certain services.

Critics often cite a loss of identity or local control when fighting regionalization, forgetting municipalities that share resources usually are neighbors and have more in common than not.

They're one community, regardless of the lines on a map, and it should be natural for them to pull together under pressure.

Look no farther than eastern York County, where four municipalities have been sharing their public works departments since last summer.

That's when a blaze destroyed Lower Windsor Township's public works building and all of its equipment.

"We lost screwdrivers. We lost gas cans. I mean, we had nothing," said township manager Maureen Hartman.

Enter Lower Windsor's nearest neighbors – Chanceford, Hellam, and Windsor townships – which quickly offered their time, storage space, resources and vehicles to keep the department operational.

There was no debate and no hesitation.

"I think they drove (their vehicles) up here the day of our fire," Hartman said. "We never asked. They just drove them here."

This month, the township replaced the last of its five-vehicle fleet, which was consumed by the Aug. 1 blaze, and Hartman said a new public works building could be finished by the end of the year.

Although Hartman said Lower Windsor is back on its feet now, the township couldn't have done it without its neighbors.

These municipalities didn't regionalize their public works departments; they simply did what they had to do because it was necessary.

It's an inspiring example of government cooperation, however. And who knows? Maybe a seed has been planted.