Leadership; Communication; Conflict resolution; Environmental policy; Municipal government
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From 2012-2017, the communities of Woonsocket and North Smithfield engaged in a protracted dispute concerning wastewater disposal. For thirty years, the two jurisdictions had maintained a signed service agreement. Following its expiration, however, Woonsocket imposed a new host fee on North Smithfield. Woonsocket needed to upgrade the facility in order to comply with mandates from the RI Department of Environmental Management. Over the next five years, leaders from both jurisdictions vociferously fought over the new fee. At the same time, leaders within communities experienced their own divisions. This case study highlights the challenges that decision makers faced in both communities. This case study draws on interviews conducted with officials from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, City of Woonsocket, and Town of North Smithfield. Additionally, it pulls from relevant legal documents, recordings and minutes from meetings of the Woonsocket City Council and North Smithfield Town Council, City Council resolutions, state legislation, and local press coverage. This case is appropriate for graduate and executive level courses in environmental policy, communication, and leadership.