For the first time in many years Village government did not meet this month for a regular Council meeting because there were not enough agenda items to necessitate a meeting. Therefore, there will be no Ordinances and Resolutions section in this newsletter. We have been very busy, however. The Administration, Council and the Planning Commission have been diligently rewriting both our Zoning and Building Codes which has been a long and tedious but necessary process. I will update you on proposed changes in next month’s newsletter.
This month I want to update you on the Shared Services and Collaboration Study that the County Planning Commission (CPC) is conducting for Moreland Hills, Pepper Pike, Orange and Woodmere. The mayors of the four communities have been meeting monthly with members of the CPC since July of last year. We have agreed on topics for study and processes for data collection. Each mayor brings a slightly different set of values and expectations to the table but we have managed to compromise and progress with civility and respect. It is most helpful that the CPC is providing objective, unbiased leadership for this study.
The mayors have agreed that the CPC should analyze the operations of the following departments for each municipality: Service, Finance, Fire, and Police. Additionally, they will study the infrastructure and capital needs of the municipalities in cooperation with our Engineers and Building Inspectors. The CPC has created the following timeline for data gathering and reports to stakeholders: they began data collection in mid-February 2012 and will continue through July of 2013. They will identify opportunities for collaboration beginning in July of 2012 and will help to organize and/or implement the proposed collaborations beginning in January of 2013 through the end of 2013.
This study is a long, complicated and demanding process. Furthermore, the CPC must hire outside subject matter experts for guidance and analysis. To help defray the costs of the study the County has applied for a Local Government Innovation Fund Grant from the state. Moreland Hills Council recently passed a resolution in support of this grant. Neither the resolution nor the grant obligates the Village to spend any money or to commit to merge. I am obligated to attend monthly meetings and to keep you informed about the progress of the study, which I will do often. Furthermore, in addition to hosting meetings and public forums over the course of the study, each municipality is committed to make a good faith effort to evaluate and consider implementation of the findings of the Study.
The Shared Services and Collaboration Study is not a formal merger study. Rather, it is a study designed to provide: 1) a full understanding of each department, service delivery model, and administrative operation within the four communities both individually and collectively; and 2) an understanding of the consequences, and potential efficiencies of coordinated or shared services among the communities. The study is designed to identify the best practices and the most up-to-date models of service delivery in each field. Moreland Hills’ Department Directors are excited to learn what they can do better and how to do it less expensively. Our collective goal is that this study will lead to decreased costs and improved service delivery.
Finally, the goal is that this study will provide the full depth of information required to help our residents make informed decisions regarding the question whether to create a formal merger study. You may remember that that must be done by a vote of the electorate. When I first wrote about this study in the July, 2011 newsletter I said, “I want to be perfectly clear that at this time I am not advocating a merger. I believe that recommendation would be very premature. I don’t yet know if it is a good idea, but I do think it’s in the Village’s best interest to explore every potential cost-saving measure in these challenging economic times.” After several months of immersing myself in the intricacies of the merger process, I stand by that statement. I am excited about the potential for improved services and decreased costs. I think we have a great opportunity to accomplish this goal.