by Dan Mason, NJCM Shared Services Coordinator
Successful shared services come in many shapes and sizes, This article will share with you some of the stories of your sister cities so that you may consider these and others like them for you and your neighbors.
Every situation is unique; every sample listed here may not be successful in your case, However, with a positive attitude, willingness to compromise and be flexible, you could adapt many of these concepts to your home town.
Shared Gasoline Facility
Bridgewater Township taxpayers will save about $230,000 this year as a result of a gas pump sharing arrangement between the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT), the Township of Bridgewater and the Bridgewater-Raritan Board of Education. Bridgewater Mayor, James T. Dowden, who is also NJCMs President, said the bulk of the savings would result from the fact that the Township and School District will not have to replace their underground storage tanks at a cost of about $100,000 each. In addition, there will be approximately a $30,000 a year savings since the Township and School District will save an average of 15 cents per gallon by purchasing their gas from the State.
Under this arrangement, the DOT will provide gas and diesel fuel to vehicles owned and operated by the Township and Board. The fuel will be dispensed from the DOT s building maintenance facility, which is adjacent to the Township s municipal complex, “This agreement is in accord with efforts we ve been making to combine government services to produce greater efficiency.” Mayor Dowden said. “It will eliminate the need for all three agencies to have under- ground storage tanks and environmental insurance, or to make separate fuel purchases.”
Joint Court System
The North Hunterdon Municipal Court, established over 30 years ago, serves 7 municipalities in Hunterdon County with 1 judge, 1 prosecutor, 1 courtroom, 1 court administrator and only 3 other employees. According to Court Administrator Robin Home,” this shared court system is very efficient, cost effective and convenient to all.” With a combined population of approximately 30,000, Clinton Township, Clinton Town, Franklin Township, Lebanon, Tewksbury, Glen Gardner and Califon, budget a total of only $320,000 for this entire operation. Due to its smooth operation, the North Hunterdon Court has been selected to be one of the first to use the State s computerized, automated traffic system. This results in only 1 computer system servicing 7 towns.
Although the Borough of Princeton and the Township of Princeton have numerous shared services between them, they recently saved $90,000 by using only 1 salt storage facility instead of 2. Likewise, the $200,000 cost for a new tub grinder was shared between 3 municipalities, the 2 Princetons and neighboring Lawrence Township. Not only does this equipment allow for the continuation of services at lower costs, it also allows for more services to the residents, including collection of branches, hedge clippings, etc., as well as supplying compost material to the residents.
The Township of Readington and the Borough of Lebanon have an interlocal services agreement whereby Readington s Municipal Engineer is contracted to supply engineering services to the Lebanon Borough Sewage Authority. Furthermore, this contract calls for Readington s Public Works employees to maintain the gravity feed collection system.
With the recent decline in activity in the construction industry, many towns have been able to combine their various building, plumbing. electrical and fire inspectors with neighboring municipalities, either through multiple part-time positions or by sharing 1 full-time inspector among several communities.
Although the State is considering taking over the responsibility of the Local Assistance Boards, 3 South Jersey communities are looking to the future when one of their welfare directors retires. They will combine positions if the State s plans fall through.
Joint Insurance Fund (JIF)…plus!
The Bergen County Joint Insurance Fund, the first and still the largest in the State with 36 member towns, is one of the many such funds that has saved millions of dollars in insurance premium costs for NJ municipalities since 1985 when the legislature first allowed JIFs to be formed. In addition, this JIF now also handles all required “Right to Know” training for all member towns.
- When contemplating construction of a new building, consider using part of one already in existence in a neighboring municipality or plan to build a new shared facility together.
- Take full advantage of the ever changing and improving technology in all operations of municipal government, especially computers and high-speed communication (laptops, smart phones). Be creative when planning for updating of equipment or introducing a new service.
- Although everyone dislikes the terms “layoffs” or “reductions in force” (RlFs) the reality is municipal work forces are in a constant state of change, due to retirements, promotions, transfers or employees simply “quitting” to take a new position elsewhere. With good communication between both elected and appointed officials from neighboring municipalities, planning for these future “eventualities” could become an ideal opportunity for a shared service, without the concerns that sometimes affect current employees.
These are only a few of the many hundreds of existing shared services between most of New Jersey s 567 municipalities and other governmental agencies. As the recently appointed Shared Services Coordinator for NJCM. I have been meeting with Legislators to help change existing laws to facilitate even more new and expanded shared services, If you would like to share your municipality s positive experiences, or possible pitfalls to avoid, please contact me so that it can be included in future articles or in my presentations throughout the State to county and area Mayors groups.