Municipalities to Explore Working More Closely Together
The Intergovernmental Cooperation Council agrees to look into ways to consolidate services.
As nearly every municipality in the state faces major shortfalls in lieu of Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial budget proposal, it’s time for mayors and village presidents to get creative.
That was the message the Intergovernmental Cooperation Council of Milwaukee County sent when it unanimously approved an offer from the Greater Milwaukee Committee to formally look into ways municipalities can find cost-cutting measures through collaboration and, in some cases, consolidation.
At March’s ICC meeting, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett suggested the ICC look into consolidation initiatives, mergers or new methods of operating and managing local governments. At Monday’s meeting at the Greenfield Public Library, the ICC decided to move the process forward.
“I think we need to start looking at these things,” Greenfield Mayor Michael Neitzke said.
Neitzke gave the example of the need for a fire chief in each community. Greenfield, Greendale, Hales Corners and Franklin are all in the same fire zone, and if there is a fire in one of those communities, often times, units from all or most of those municipalities respond.
“If there’s a fire, you can bet they’re all going to show up," Neitzke said. "But does it make sense to have four chiefs? We already cooperate and coordinate, but we can do better.”
Many of the mayors and village presidents in attendance discussed how most municipalities already work together, either formally or through handshake agreements.
In the North Shore, the consolidation of multiple municipalities’ fire departments occurred more than a decade ago out of necessity, according to Glendale Mayor Jerome Tepper. How to manage the consolidation is still not cut and dried to this day.
“We gave birth to the North Shore Fire Department 15 years ago, and I think we’re still going through birthing pains,” he said. “There are still problems that come up. It’s that maintaining of consolidation that’s the hardest job. … But it’s important that the community leaders begin to focus on how we can work together instead of how we can work outside that loop.”
Shorewood Village President Guy Johnson said his village is looking at the consolidation of dispatchers, but said doing so will only move forward if it makes sense. That sentiment was shared by many ICC members.
“Increasing the service capabilities is most important,” he said. “Are we going to have better service by doing that? You have to be making sure you look at not just the dollar bottom line but the service of your constituents.”
The GMC has agreed to work with the ICC to find examples of cost-saving consolidating moves.
In other news from the meeting, Franklin Mayor Tom Taylor was elected Chairman of the ICC and Neitzke the Vice Chairman.