Sorry for the latest lag. I've been off doing lighter summer stories. They are fun, but allow me to take my eye off the collaboration ball a bit.
I'm hoping to prepare a story related to Ohio budget reforms soon.
A reminder: You will get alerts to new entries on this blog by following me on Twitter as @Davescottofakro
Meanwhile, here is a release from Kent State University:
Northeast Ohio Government Collaborative Actions Highlighted in Kent State Research
Kent State University’s Center for Public Administration and Public Policy recently released a comprehensive inventory of nearly 250 collaborative projects that are actively happening or are being explored as ideas for possible implementation in Northeast Ohio. Today, the center is following up with the release of a collaborative action inventory of projects that are currently being implemented in Northeast Ohio. To view the research findings, visit www.kent.edu/intergovernmentalcollaboration.
“Local governments in our region are not just talking about collaboration – they are taking action,” said John Hoornbeek, director of the Center for Public Administration and Public Policy at Kent State. “In fact 58 percent of the roughly 250 collaborations we have identified are being implemented.”
Some of these joint projects are ambitious, such as the consolidation of health departments in Summit County or last week’s announcement of a potential merger among the communities of Pepper Pike, Orange, Moreland Hills and Woodmere in Cuyahoga County. Other projects are more targeted.
“The common thread is that local governments in Northeast Ohio are talking with one another and are implementing joint projects to save money and improve services,” Hoornbeek said. “The benefit of this inventory is that it can help local governments learn from one another and benefit from one another’s progress.”
In Trumbull County, Sheriff’s Department Deputy Chief Ernest Cook began working on an innovative concept early last year regarding fuel purchasing.
“Ohio is part of the Midwest fuel market, Pennsylvania is part of the East Coast fuel market and West Virginia is part of the Gulf States fuel market,” said David Rouan, director of administration for the Trumbull County Engineer's Office. “Since we are so uniquely positioned, Deputy Chief Cook found that a way for us to take advantage of these markets on a daily basis, and buy from the market that is the least expensive on any given day.
“On a daily basis, our vendor checks the prices of those three markets, and buys the fuel from the market that is the least expensive,” Rouan explained. “So far without exception, that price has been less than what the state purchasing prices have been. If our vendor’s prices aren’t less than the state purchasing price, we can still use the state program. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Initially, the program was only available to Trumbull County, but because of provisions in the state law, county commissioners were able to open up the program to other interested entities, including the city of Youngstown.
“We’ve estimated that the county highway department will save about $17,000 annually with this program.” Rouan said. “The savings range from a few pennies per gallon to sometimes 12 to 14 cents per gallon, and over a year’s time that certainly adds up. The program has been a big success, it’s saving dollars, it’s innovative and it can be replicated in other areas.”
For Tom Pascarella, director of administration for the city of Tallmadge, collaboration wasn’t only a best practice; it was a way to protect the city from dire financial straits. The city is saving $500,000 annually by combining police and fire dispatch services with the city of Stow. Moving the city’s building inspection process to Summit County and utilizing the services of the regional income tax agency have resulted in additional savings of approximately $220,000 annually.
Another innovative collaboration is in the process of being implemented in Tallmadge involves technology that has been making the news lately. For phone and data lines, the city is moving to the new cloud technology, which will result in savings of approximately $50,000 annually.
“We thought we would have two or three entities collaborating with us on the cloud, and it’s now up to 17 communities,” Pascarella said.
“These four initiatives are saving us more than $800,000,”Pascarella said. “This is significant, as our local income tax collections are down about $1 million because of the recession, so these efforts really helped us get through the financial crisis. Without these cost savings, we would be in severe financial condition.”
Pascarella, who received a Ph.D. from Kent State in 1980, now teaches courses in public administration at the university.
“Through John Hoornbeek and the Kent State’s Center for Public Administration and Public Policy, I have been introduced to a number of government officials throughout Northeast Ohio, including folks from Warren, Youngstown, Cleveland, Canton and Sandusky,” Pascarella said. “It really helps to set a sense of how others are addressing these problems. The center has become a really valuable resource for me. It’s been a godsend.”
The findings released today were supported by the Fund for Our Economic Future and the Knight Foundation through its Civic Commons Initiative.
For more information on Kent State’s Center for Public Administration and Public Policy, call 330-672-7148. To view the research findings, visit www.kent.edu/intergovernmentalcollaboration.