By Sue Botos
State auditor Dave Yost recently presented the six Westshore community mayors with an award recognizing their collaborative efforts, and the cities will continue to search for ways in which they can pool resources and stretch budgets, just as they have for over 40 years.
“This (collaboration) is a model for other communities. We’ve always known we work well together,” commented Bobst at a recent City Council meeting. She said the Auditor of State’s Taxpayer Hero Award, which was shared by the mayors of Rocky River, Fairview Park, Bay Village, Westlake, North Olmsted and Lakewood, acknowledges the efforts of local government officials who demonstrate innovative ideas to cut costs and increase efficiency.
“Yes, we do collaborate a great deal, but it does not stop there. We also work with other institutions and with the private sector,” Bobst added, referring to the upcoming Linda Street project, which will rely on merchant input for aesthetic features. She also pointed out the numerous civic organizations the city works with, such as Habitat for Humanity and the Cleveland Restoration Society. Westshore CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), made up of volunteers from the Westshore, was instrumental in emergency assistance during the October storm.
“The depth and breadth of collaboration is far-reaching. Our residents have supported this and see the wisdom of this,” she stated.
Bobst said that, for many years, the Westshore cities have been sharing equipment that would not be feasible for each to purchase. For example, the cities all utilize a sewer camera, owned by Bay Village, for a much lower cost than actually buying the item. Now, thanks to information provided by the state auditor’s website, an inventory of equipment and services is available online at no cost.
These items are either purchased by a city and “leased” to others, or the initial cost can be shared. The posted information allows city administrators to weigh the feasibility of different equipment purchase options.
Created by Yost and his office, the website skinnyohio.org serves as a resource for state agencies and local governments to help streamline their budgets. During a presentation to the West Shore Chamber of Commerce last year, Yost described the site, stating that it makes available performance audit results that compare the expenditures of public entities.
Yost noted that a state law went into effect in September 2011 allowing various government bodies to contract with one another to provide services. Lake County communities, which recently underwent a performance audit, will now be able to share resources.
Bobst told West Life that Rocky River did apply for performance audits of both refuse collection and sewer work, but was turned down. “This is good news and bad news,” Bobst commented. “The bad news is that we did not receive a grant, but the good news is that other communities in greater (financial) need did get a grant.”
The skinnyohio.org site does offer a template that provides an inventory of equipment and services available throughout the area, as well as usage patterns. “We were going to do this on our own, but now we don’t have to and there is no cost,” Bobst said of the cataloging. “This formalizes what we (WCOG) have been doing for years,” she added.
Bobst stressed that any equipment listed by West Shore communities is non-emergency. Collaboration of fire services for Bay Village, Rocky River, Fairview Park and Westlake are still under discussion. In December, the four cities were unsuccessful in an attempt to get a grant to further their efforts.
An agreement similar to that approved by Lake County municipalities is being drawn up by County Councilman David Greenspan, according to Bobst. However, concerns about liability and collective bargaining issues have stalled the process.
In the meantime, Bobst said she is encouraging all city department directors to check out the information available online. “We can always improve and can always benefit from the auditor’s knowledge,” she stated.