Worcester County, Massachusetts

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Worcester County is a non-governmental county located in the U.S. state of Massachusetts. The largest city and traditional county seat is the city of Worcester.[1] The population was 750,963 at the 2000 census.Its main city is Worcester itself.

Contents

Law and government

Worcester County exists today only as a historical geographic region. It has had no county government since July 1, 1998, when all former county functions were assumed by other governmental agencies. Former county functions included: Roads, Court system, Prosecutor, Correctional facilities, County Hospital, Sheriff's office, and County Commissioners. There are vestiges of the old system: for example, county sheriffs are still elected, but are under the state Executive Office of Public Safety. Also, the office of district attorney is effectively a county-wide position even though the district includes one town from a neighboring county. There is not, however, a county council or a board of county commissioners. Communities are now granted the right to form their own regional compacts for sharing services. The geographic area of Worcester County is covered by two regional planning commissions: Central Massachusetts (centered on the city of Worcester) and Montachusett (centered on the cities of Fitchburg and Leominster.) Worcester Regional functions also exist for disaster response, chamber of commerce, agriculture extension, regional transit, tourism and convention services, and other services. Some consideration is currently underway for regional efforts at organizing public health services with the Worcester City Public Health Department.

Massachusetts, by law, and mainly due to indebtedness, began to allow county governments to dissolve (or change form), beginning around 1997, mostly aimed at saving costs. Contiguous municipalities in southern New England made county governments less essential in this densely populated region. Connecticut and Rhode Island for example, also no longer have County governments. The law in Massachusetts still allows for communities to form regional compacts and governmental entities, and allowed a number of counties to continue. Traditional and modern County and regional governments still exist in Southeastern Massachusetts. Barnstable County, Massachusetts, which is Cape Cod, functions as a modern regional government and fulfills a number of regional services. Norfolk County which adjoins Worcester County, continues to have a functional county government. In 2010, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, finally paid off the debts of the former county governments which it had to absorb since 1999.

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