Lane County Opportunities for the New Year. Number Three: coordination of services with other jurisdictions. by Pat Farr


The cities of Eugene and Springfield are in the process of merging their fire departments into a single department.  (click here to see details.)

Reasons for the merger abound:

1.  Eliminating boundaries that could be a hindrance to overlapping fire and medical emergency response.

2.  Standardizing equipment used in the field in order to allow different crews to hook up to each other’s hardware as well as to keep a single inventory of replacement and backup parts.

3.  Streamlining the command structure to reduce administrative overhead.

4.  Making more life-saving services available to more addresses.

The list goes on.  Bottom line:  people of Eugene and Springfield are safer while the money spent on fire and EMT services is optimized.

Compare that with a recent development.  The city of Eugene is embarking on creating a committee on homelessness that is slated to be a standing committee of the City Council.  This committee is overdue and will essentially be a clearing house for needed services.  It will consist of 7-9 members who will represent different segments of the community such as:  public safety; service providers; faith community; business; Human Rights Commission, etc.  It will be good.

It will be good, that is, if it is coordinated with a similar committee that is being formed by Lane County.  A committee required by the  U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (which provides Lane County with federal money for housing assistance among other things) which will have an almost identical composition.

If the two committees end up duplicating efforts–or worse, competing against each other for available resources–valuable human service dollars will be wasted and the end result is likely to be compromised.

An opportunity exists for the two committees to either combine with a single charge (set of goals) or to coordinate their efforts in order to compliment the other committee’s work.

Other examples of duplicated committee work exist throughout Lane County.  Non-profit organizations often are working on a particular issue while at the same time a well-meaning  government jurisdiction identifies the same issue and forms a new task force, effectively duplicating the work.  And perhaps doubling the cost.  At other times committees are formed to study a condition that has been previously studied, needlessly replicating the work and expense.

Locally we have established intergovernmental commissions that are intended to consolidate and coordinate efforts.  But we have not always been expert in allowing them to do so.

For instance, we have an intergovernmental Human Services Commission, which consists of elected officials from Lane County, Eugene and Springfield.  Its goal is to effectively distribute available funds to the most effective service providers.  But it is not always unilaterally supported by the represented government bodies.

We have other commissions and committees that consist of multi-jurisdictional elected officials and staff that can be used more effectively to optimize the precious and diminishing resources available.

We also have Lane Council of Governments (LCOG) which provides services to all cities and school boards in the county.  Under the new leadership of its director, Brenda Wilson, LCOG can reach new heights in efficient service.

As we enter the new year, if we also enter a new era of coordination of services, we can find ways to be more efficient and provide higher levels of service without requiring duplicated spending.

Now, that would be new.

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