Plymouth County Services
Plymouth County is a statutory county and as such operates under a combination of the Massachusetts General Laws, special acts of the Legislature, by custom, and by directives from various state executive offices. Most of the statutes applicable to our form of county government are found in Chapters 34, 35, 36, and 37 of the General Laws.
Like our fellow "statutory" counties of Bristol and Norfolk, the general executive authority of the county is vested in a three person board of County Commissioners, two of whom are elected in "presidential" election years, the other of whom is elected in the "gubernatorial" election years. In addition to the Commissioners, there is one elected Register of Deeds and one elected Treasurer for the entire county. The County Sheriff is elected by the voters of Plymouth County, although the Sheriff, and staff are state employees. Similarly, the Clerk of Courts is elected by the voters of the county and by statute is the clerk of the County Commissioners in spite of the fact that the Clerk of Courts has been a state official since the Court Reform Act of 1978.
The three Commissioners serve for four year terms, while the remaining elected officials serve six year terms.
The general powers of the County Commissioners are derived from MGL Ch. 34 §14: the authority to represent their county, and to have care of its property and the management of its business and affairs in cases where otherwise not expressly provided. Each "full-time" elected official- the Register of Deeds, the Sheriff, and the Treasurer - exercises direct day-to-day oversight of their respective department. The remaining departments which fall directly under the control of the Commissioners are run on a daily basis by a department head - as in the case of the Extension Service or Maintenance Department - or by the County Administrator, who is responsible for the day-to-day oversight of the Commissioners' office, other general affairs, and otherwise assists the Commissioners. The County Commissioners also act as the personnel board for the County of Plymouth.
The annual budget for all departments for the County of Plymouth, is prepared by the County Commissioners, as per MGL Ch. 35 §28 (a), (b) in cooperation with Elected County officials and Department Heads.
Initially, each department head submits a proposed budget to the Commissioners, who then review and modify each department's budget as necessary. The budget per MGL Ch. 35 Sec. 28B after approval by the Plymouth County Commissioners. The budget is then submitted for either approval or amendment to the Plymouth County Advisory Board on County Expenditures for final review and approbation.
Plymouth County Services
Plymouth County provides a number of services to its residents and to its constituent communities. Some of these services are mandated by law; others are permitted through special legislation. Nearly all of the services provided by the County are funded through the budget with the revenues generated by the County.
The County of Plymouth is responsible for the maintenance of several courthouses which are leased to the Commonwealth under the Court Reform Act of 1978. As of July 1, 2013, Plymouth County leases three buildings to the Commonwealth for court purposes:
- Brockton Superior Court
- Hingham District Court
- Wareham District Court
The County also leases the former Sheriff Department's Administration Building in Plymouth to Entergy as their emergency management center and an office building in Brockton to the Plymouth County District Attorney's Office.
Group Health Insurance
As allowed by MGL Ch. 32B §12, twenty-eight governmental entities within Plymouth County opt to purchase health insurance through the Mayflower Municipal Health Group (MMHG). MMHG has contracted with the County Treasurer to provide financial and benefits administration and services. As a self insured entity MMHG processes approximately $100 million in insurance claims annually for more than 10,000 municipal employees and their families, and has become one of the most successful self insured joint purchase groups in the country.
Plymouth County runs a bulk purchasing program for fuel oil in which twenty-three municipalities participate. Additionally, the county, conducts cooperative bids for fire equipment (defibrillators, communications equipment, protective clothing, etc.), police equipment, and public safety and municipal vehicles. Over 200 governmental entities (as well as college, police, and fire departments) participate in these programs.
Parking Ticket Processing
Plymouth County processes parking tickets for thirty-nine municipalities and governmental entities as a result of the revenue generated by this popular program. The Parking ticket program falls under the jurisdiction of the County Treasurer, with budgetary oversight by the County Commissioners.
Co-Operative Extension Service
Plymouth County, along with Barnstable County, operates one of two remaining county funded extension services in Massachusetts. The Plymouth County Extension Service works with the University of Massachusetts and the United Sates Department of Agriculture to provide the residents of Plymouth County with educational resources and programs relating to agriculture and landscape sciences. The Extension Service also supports a sizable and growing 4-H program, in which thousands of children across the county participate.
The County Commissioners provide support to public safety in Plymouth County, by funding the maintenance and operation of a fire observation plane. The plane is used by the fire departments of Plymouth County to assist them in fighting forest fires. The Commissioners have also historically provided an annual grant to the Plymouth County Fire Training Association. In addition, the county government is working with the Plymouth County Fire Chiefs' Association, the Plymouth County Fire Training Association, and members of the county's legislative delegation to establish a County-operated fire training facility in Plymouth to serve the fire departments of Plymouth County, which will result in thousands of dollars in savings for our communities in training costs.
Aid To Tourism
Under Chapter 169 of the Acts of 1956, as amended, the County Commissioners have been authorized to make expenditures "for the purpose of promoting and advertising the recreational, industrial, agricultural and historical advantages" of Plymouth County. As permitted by law, the Plymouth County Development Council has been designated as the county's agent for that purpose. Under the auspices of the current Commissioners County's Grant has increased from $5,625.00 to $7,500.00 in support of tourism which is vital economic engine for our region.
The County Commissioners have custody of records for the County Government dating back to its establishment in 1685. Of even greater historical value, are the records for the Old Colony of Plymouth, which pre-date 1685 and are kept in a vault in the Commissioners' office.