Wednesday, September 26, 2012


As Peter Ferguson nears the end of his term as Stark County commissioner, he is going to make one more determined effort to get the cities of Stark County on board with a number of efforts he has underway to merge/consolidate county/city local government functions in order to:
  • streamline government services for Stark Countians in order to make them convenient, and
  • to make them more efficient and thereby save local government "hard to get" taxpayer dollars.
While the SCPR sees the effort as being a merger/consolidation, Commissioner Ferguson prefers to call it a move towards "shared services."

Because political turfism is rampant in Stark County, the euphemistic "shared services" is not apt to go over with Stark's political subdivisions in being receptive to Ferguson's initiative.

And he has gotten support in approaching his project as a "shared services" concept from the State of Ohio.  A part of Governor Kasich's efficiency in Ohio government initiative is what he calls the "Local Government Innovation Fund" (LGIF).

As defined by the Ohio Department of Development, the LGIF has been:
... established to provide financial assistance to Ohio political subdivisions for planning and implementing projects that are projected to create more efficient and effective service delivery within a specific discipline of government services for one or more entities. Through this program, the Ohio Department of Development seeks to promote efficiency, collaboration, merger, and shared services among local governments. Projects are also expected to facilitate improved business environments and promote community attraction.

The LGIF program will award up to $100,000 in grant funds per feasibility study, up to $100,000 in loan assistance per entity for demonstration projects, and up to $500,000 in loan assistance for collaborative demonstration projects. Award amounts for applicants with collaborative partners are limited to $100,000 per applicant and $100,000 for each collaborative partner up to $500,000. Grant funds will be awarded biannually and loan funds will be awarded quarterly through a competitive and open selection process.
But even before the LGIF program had come into existence, Commissioner Ferguson and his colleagues have been in diligent and active pursuit of streamlining city/county/village/township local government services (e.g. building departments, health departments, 9-1-1 emergency services, IT services and the like).

A major obstacle to the efficiency effort has been Mayor William J. Healy, II.

From a prior SCPR blog:
Last year he lashed out at Commissioner Pete Ferguson for having the audacity of commissioning former Commissioner Tom Harmon (who helped Bill Smuckler in his mayoralty race against Healy, May, 2011) and other Stark Countians to study the merger of building departments from throughout Stark County into a "one-stop-shopping" agency of government.
  • (LINK)  Blog of December 22, 2011 (see Ferguson video),
  • (LINK)  Blog of April 11, 2012
Though he only has until December 31st to get something worked out on "shared services," The Report is impressed that Ferguson has not given up on trying to make Stark County government more taxpayer friendly despite Healy pugnaciousness.

As readers of the SCPR know, yours truly has commented ad nauseum, over The Report's near five year existence, the degree to which Healy is a "my way or the highway" type of guy who is the poster child for being a quintessential political bully.

Not to be denied, Commissioner Ferguson has renewed his effort (on building department operations consolidation) to get Healy and his fellow mayors throughout Stark County to sign on to the notion of shared services.

This week he has sent out a letter to the mayors in which he:
  • recites the fact that Stark County has received a State of Ohio grant "to carry out a Stark County Building Department Shared Services Feasibility Study,
  • which, he says, is designed "to facilitate a focused planning process to help create efficient and effective service delivery ...,"
  • asks the mayors to provide certain information (see below) so that the commissioners (working with Bob Nau - executive director of Stark County Regional Planning) can have information sufficient to put out a bid to firms which may be interested in assisting the county in studying the feasibility of getting Stark County's building department functions into a fully shared mode.
  • A survey accompanying the letter which request information on:
    • building department services currently provided,
    • building department historical budget (revenues/expenses) going back 10 years,
    • building department permits issued by them over the past 10 years,
    • number of personnel working in the political subdivision building department, 
    • the technology currently in use by the department (i.e. software, electronic filing, et cetera), and
    • whether or not the political subdivision provides "flood plain management services."
Ferguson should know early on as to whether not this study is going anywhere anytime soon.

The baseline question will be whether or not Healy will permit his building department to complete and respond to the survey.

If he does, then there is hope that further study and discussion has any future.

One has to wonder how Healy can refuse.

He claims that Canton is facing at least a $2 million deficit for 2013.

And, he recently suffered a number of defeats in developing offsetting revenue streams at the hands of Canton City Council.

But The Report believes that unless Healy is convinced that he - 'err Canton government - will be in charge of a revamped "shared services" building department, there is no way he will cooperate with Ferguson's effort.

To Healy, it is one thing to save money, but not at the price of his ego remaining intact.

All eyes are now focused on Mayor William J. Healy, II.

And, of course, he likes it that way!

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