Award-Winning Concepts Work

August 6, 2007
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Word came down last week that the Regional Geographic Information System (REGIS) Agency, an arm of the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council, earned a national award (see story, page 10) for extraordinary achievement by government agencies in the use of automated information systems.

REGIS is a consortium of 22 local governments, working together to share costs and collaborate on a regional level. The group’s Regional Geographic System was deemed exemplary by the 2007 Exemplary Systems in Government (ESIG) Award in the “Enterprise” category. That’s a fancy way of saying that REGIS accomplished an effective application of computer technology that can be measured in terms of improved delivery of government services and increased benefits to citizens.

The REGIS consortium, consisting of city, township, county and transportation agencies throughout the area, works together to provide services and save local taxpayer dollars by pooling resources for hardware, software, personnel and other fixed costs. The continuing success of REGIS is further testament of the need for local units of government, as well as the private sector, to work together to provide efficient, sensible services to the areas they serve.

The Michigan Senate’s Local, Urban and State Affairs Committee approved legislation last month that would continue to remove barriers that prevent local units of government and communities from consolidating and reaching inter-local agreements. Sen. Patti Birkholz, R-Saugatuck Township and a member of the committee, stressed the ongoing efforts to ease restrictions for local governments trying to work together. The intent is to encourage cooperative ventures between local units of government so they can provide services more efficiently. The proposed legislation would also preserve collective bargaining.

The rationale for collaboration is obvious. Business leaders were quick to jump on the concepts outlined several years ago in “The Price of Government: Getting the Results We Need in an Age of Permanent Fiscal Crisis,” by Peter Hutchinson and David Osborne. The Senate legislation follows the same theme, and is a beginning in Michigan.

“Given the fiscal difficulties that face local units of government, restrictions on consolidating and sharing services can often create a strain on communities,” Birkholz noted. “At a time when Michigan is struggling economically, we must explore all our options and adopt local reform measures. This legislation is a positive reform that will help locals consolidate and work together more closely.”

House Bills 4246 and 4266 are advancing to the full Senate for consideration. The Business Journal strongly encourages their passage.

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