Forced to do more with less, DuPage County government and the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County are doing more together.
County and forest preserve officials said Wednesday that they have saved taxpayers roughly $275,000 by sharing services and entering into joint-purchasing agreements over the past two years. Most of the savings will continue on an annual basis.
Both entities, for example, partnered on a tree removal project along Naperville Road in Wheaton. They also bought software licenses together and share Geographic Information System services for mapping. In addition, the county provided space for the forest preserve to store its backup computer equipment.
"The forest preserve has been a model in working together, sharing services and realizing functional consolidation," county board Chairman Dan Cronin said. "So here we are today celebrating measurable, tangible savings to the taxpayers."
Cronin said the partnership highlights how times have changed for local government entities, especially with the budget uncertainty in Springfield.
"There isn't going to be more money available for local governments to provide services," Cronin said. "I think it is incumbent upon us elected leaders in local government to find ways to do more with less."
After becoming president of the forest preserve commission in December 2014, Joe Cantore said he wanted the district to pursue shared-services agreements with the county.
On Wednesday, Cantore said the motivation for the collaboration and cooperation is to help taxpayers.
"The taxpayers demand more of the people who work for them," he said. "We all work for the taxpayer."
Last year, the forest preserve entered a joint bid with the county for stone and gravel for trail maintenance and landscaping projects. That decision saved more than $29,000, officials said.
Forest preserve Commissioner Jeff Redick said what's been accomplished so far is just the beginning.
"That's not the finish line," he said. "I would just say that's the starting line."
Redick said there's a commitment "up and down the line" to continue joint efforts by the forest preserve and county.
Those efforts include talk of a countywide strategy to battle mosquitoes.
Both entities recently agreed on changes to the district's mosquito management policy. The revised policy, officials say, "better protects public health in the face of emerging mosquito-borne diseases while identifying protocols for mosquito management and abatement" in the county.
"We've been able to make meaningful changes to that policy that improve the quality of life for the people that we all represent," Redick said.
The forest preserve also plans to use the county's Vactor Receiving Station in Woodridge, which helps dispose of storm sewer debris.
By working with the county, Redick said his hope is that other governmental entities will be inspired to partner with the county, the forest preserve and each other. "That's what I'm most excited about," he said.