Leaders from local governments will be in Des Moines today (Friday) for an Iowa League of Cities workshop. Jefferson City Administrator Elizabeth Hailey says the meeting will focus on how they can save money by sharing their public services.Hailey says they’ll review and discuss agreements that are already in place and working. Earlier this week, state legislators unveiled an effort to encourage so-called 28-E agreements where local governments work together. The plans threatens cities and counties with a property tax freeze in the year 2011 if they don’t share services. Hailey says penalizing local authorities could be counter-productive.He says it’s hard to be pressured to do 28-E agreements, but I think we’re doing a good job of trying to figure it out and collaborate. One area where legislators are eager to see joint city/county efforts is in law enforcement. Hailey says in Greene County, deputies and Jefferson police already use the same facility, and a joint support staff. She says the morale is great and they all work well together, plus they swap ideas to make them more effective. She says what they’re not doing is overlapping services, work or hours. Hailey also says Jefferson already has sharing agreements with Jefferson-Scranton schools, surrounding communities, and Greene County for various services. Kurt Thurmaier is an Iowa State University professor of political science and director of ISU’s public policy and administration program. He says the proposal is nothing new. Since 1971, he says more than 13-thousand 28-E agreements have been filed with the Secretary of State’s office, including sharing plans between cities, some between cities and counties, between cities and school districts, fire departments and other different arrangements. Thurmaier says there’s a wide variety of ways government entities can set up contracts to share the providing or the cost of services. Cost often drives the agreements, he says. But he uses the example of hiring one police officer for each small town in a region.They have to pay the salary and benefits, that officer’s training and a car — and one officer still can’t work round the clock every single day. So, it might be more effective to have a sheriff’s department provide patrol services, which could be every day, 24 hours a day. He says that kind of sharing is not only more cost-efficient, it’s more effective for the users who get good, comprehensive services. At the Friday workshop he’ll unveil a map showing all the 28-E agreements in effect today for law-enforcement patrols. He says it shows a “starburst” pattern, in which the Story County sheriff’s office has an agreement to patrol Colo and other small towns, Boone County patrols Luther and Madrid, arrangements he says are quite typical. In additinon to the League of Cities, the Iowa State Association of Counties and Iowa State University Extension are sponsoring the workshop.
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