POMEROY — The Athens-Meigs Educational Service Center will lead an informal study to determine if local governments can combine buying power to save costs. The first item in the study agenda is to determine if local governmenst can save fuel costs by buying cooperatively.
New state legislation allows educational service centers to collaborate with local governments in ways they could not before, according to Superintendent Rick Edwards, and that could allow the two-county service center to partner with other governmental agencies in an attempt to save money for public agencies and the taxpayers. Edwards has counted 28 local governments and agencies that could participate in a joint-purchasing program or other initiatives for saving operating costs in Meigs County, alone.
Specifically, Senate Bill 153 removes barriers which have prevented local governments from working together, in light of proposed costs to state subsidies to local governments. It also makes changes in construction law and prevailing wage rules to save local governments money on building projects. While Meigs County and several others have been guaranteed, at least for two years, to receive subsidies from the state’s Local Government Fund, that money is threatened in the long term.
The legislative changes allow any school or government to share staff, equipment or facilities through simple agreements. They can also come together to purchase supplies and equipment or conduct joint projects without unnecessary hurdles, Edwards said. Aside from obvious government agencies like township trustee boards and school districts, fire departments and other public service agencies could also participate and benefit.
The first meeting of local government leaders was held last week, but Edwards said it is the first of several he hopes to have with county officials, village mayors and council members and township trustees. He said he hopes other local branches of government will also participate in the discussions. First, the group will look into the possibility and feasability of purchasing fuel in larger quantities to save agencies money.
The new legislation also provides authority to county commissioners to require other county offices to use centralized services such as purchasing, transportation, vehicle maintenance, human resources, printing and mail operations, but that provision does not directly weigh into the local efforts to collaborate.
“Simply put, we are beginning to discussions to see how these individual local governments can leverage strength as one cooperative unit instead of twelve to purchase goods and materials at the lowest cost,” Edwards said. “The first step will be to look at annual fuel costs and see if we can join together to leverage a lower price. That would benefit everyone.”