Opinion: Partnerships part of the new norm for government

A major concern in this “new normal” state is the need for local governments to be more efficient and share services to save taxpayer dollars.
County, city council and school board staffs are discussing this and meeting together.
The topic is coming up more during council meetings. Ramsey, for example, has found it can save money by outsourcing some of its services.
The city of Elk River also is discussing outsourcing some of its services, following the Ramsey model.
Fire departments have been sharing services with neighboring communities. One example is the Anoka department fighting fires for Champlin.
Fire departments also are on call during emergency responses to fight fires in neighboring communities.
Police departments in Anoka County share the services of a new crime lab.
Some county sheriffs provide police protection to cities within the county. Such is the case where Otsego contracts for police services from Wright County.
A community up north even has its residents adopting the outdoor street floral displays to make the community more welcoming.
Recently, the North Branch City Council and the North Branch school board met for the first time.
During the discussion, they found areas where they could save money by using each other’s facilities. One, for example, was purchasing fuel for vehicles. The school district has its own fuel tank because it has so many vehicles, while the city buys fuel elsewhere. Joint purchasing of fuel make sense, but the downside is it could result in fewer local fuel purchases.
Another area is maintenance of the vehicles, since the school district has two mechanics.
Purchase of salt and sand was added to the list. The city already is partnering with the Minnesota Department of Transportation on a salt shed.
Another suggestion is sharing IT services and technology.
Now, the staffs of the city and school district will meet to research some of the ideas to see if there is a savings in merging purchases and services.
During the discussion, one member suggested that cities, townships and the county should have a meeting further to discuss how to save money by sharing services they’ve coveted for too long.
Other county and city officials have held similar meetings, but rarely have school boards and cities gotten together. Based on the experience in North Branch, having school boards and city councils meet sounds like a good idea.
They plan to meet twice a year. That’s good news for the taxpayers. — Don Heinzman, ECM Publishers