Editorial: More examples of agencies getting serious about cooperation
In challenging local governments to look for ways to save money, no one said it would be easy.
It's not. It's hard work for leaders of governments or agencies to explore ways to share, collaborate and consolidate. But it's a worthwhile effort. Officials owe it to taxpayers to seek partners, identify options and craft plans.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, when your state is the nation's leader in units of government and high property taxes, improving efficiency is imperative. Thankfully, we frequently see new examples to show that governments have gotten the message.
Last week, after discussing options for two years, the Libertyville and Mundelein fire departments announced a plan to share a ladder tower fire truck. Lake County identified three agencies it is targeting to consolidate, eliminate or otherwise streamline in 2018 -- this while also planning to review consolidating drainage and mosquito abatement districts and housing authorities. As we mentioned last week, Neighboring school districts are considering a proposal from Mount Prospect Elementary District 57 to study consolidation.
We hope these are signs that momentum will continue to grow for consolidation and cooperation.
Ladder tower fire trucks are used to fight fires in high-rise and commercial structures, and have a fairly long life span because they aren't driven as many miles as fire engines. They aren't cheap -- a new one costs $1.3 million. Under the five-year agreement between Libertyville and Mundelein, the specialized piece of equipment would be available to Mundelein for an annual fee that will offset maintenance and future replacement costs. The move allows Mundelein to sell or lease its ladder truck.
"When looking at operational use versus cost, fuel, and associated maintenance to keep a vehicle like this operational, it makes more sense to share these types of assets," Mundelein Public Safety Director Eric Guenther told our Mick Zawislak.
Libertyville's 18-year-old ladder truck is on a 25-year replacement schedule, but could be refurbished to add up to 10 years to its life.
Lake County's consolidation plan will target three agencies for which the county board has sole appointment power. The agencies represent a sliver of property tax bills, but this is a start.
In addition to saving money, collaboration can provide other benefits communities. For example, last year, Harper College, the Palatine Park District and Northwest Community Healthcare collaborated to rehab and expand the college's 37-year-old Recreation and Wellness Center. The arrangement will make an old building useful, allowesthe park district to offer residents an indoor pool and aquatic center and provides Northwest Community Hospital a location to serve that part of the suburbs with a health clinic.
These are the kind of ideas that make sense to stretch tax dollars in an era of tight budgets. Here's hoping there will be more of them.