Counties consider regional sharing

By David Skolnick

Friday’s talk will focus on ways to collaborate, a chamber official says.

BOARDMAN — About 80 elected and appointed government officials from Mahoning and Trumbull counties will meet Friday to talk about regional collaboration.

The conference, held by the Regional Chamber at the Holiday Inn in Boardman, includes sessions on regional economic revenue sharing, developing a plan for police consolidation and working as a team with other parts of northeast Ohio to make the area globally competitive.

But it’s the simple things — sharing information and ideas, forging relationships among the officials and working together to buy products, such as street salt — that will be the focus of the event, said Tony Paglia, the chamber’s vice president of government affairs.

“We need more leaders to promote regional collaboration and cooperation,” he said. “That will happen with more information. If the officials have relationships they’ll trust each other.”

And that will lead to progress, he said.

“We need leaders who will say, ‘We all want to work together,’” he said. “We need a more progressive government. That will improve how people see us from the outside.”

This certainly isn’t the first meeting to discuss how governments can share services.

But the importance of the conference is getting officials together to talk and get to know one another, Paglia said.

The talk could be as simple as collaborating to buy street salt in bulk amounts to save money, he said.

“I hope this meeting is a mechanism to begin discussing” what communities can do to keep down costs, said Boardman Township Administrator Jason Loree.

Loree said he’s interested in hearing from leaders of communities that have successfully collaborated at the conference.

The Mahoning Valley needs to first take small steps, he said.

“In the past, it’s been too big of a leap,” Loree said about regionalization attempts.

Mahoning County Commissioner John McNally IV said he’s interested in hearing about regional economic revenue sharing, a program that worked in suburbs near Cleveland.

“We’ve talked in the past about sharing purchasing power and health-care coverage and it hasn’t gotten too far,” he said. “These are things that don’t get done overnight.”

The Regional Chamber is still interested in moving ahead with two initiatives: reforming the form of government in Mahoning and Trumbull counties and cutting the administrative costs of school districts in those two counties along with Columbiana County, Paglia said.

The chamber opted a few months ago to put the government proposal on the November 2009 ballot rather than its original plan to have it in front of voters this November.

The proposal would establish the position of county executive and have one person in charge with a county legislature rather than the current system of three commissioners.

The proposed charters for the proposed new form of county government will be done in the next month or two, Paglia said.

The chamber also wanted to have fewer administrators overseeing school districts in the three counties to save money. The proposal was soundly rejected by local school officials. A few months ago, the chamber decided to put that issue aside.

However, Paglia said Wednesday, the chamber is revisiting the issue and should have something on it this fall.

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