A REGIONAL APPROACH: Collaborating with Non-Profits.

Author:Blount, Greg
 
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Public agencies of all sizes face financial challenges and difficulties in securing the resources needed to provide important services. Many governments consider collaborations with private businesses (public-private partnerships, or P3s) as a potential solution, but a similar partnership with a non-profit/private partnership (an NP3) provides another possibility, especially among regional jurisdictions. When properly planned and developed, an NP3 can help governments save money and deliver services more efficiently. An NP3 is a type of P3, so these agreements require extensive research and evaluation before you make a decision that can change the way your government operates.

A REGIONAL APPROACH

One type of NP3 that governments should keep in mind takes a regional approach, with two or more jurisdictions working together to share information, resources, activities, and capabilities to achieve an outcome that would not be feasible for the governments on their own. Many regional approaches include state, county, municipal, and council of government (COG) partnerships.

Shared services are designed to meet a specific need, yet remain flexible enough to change as the jurisdiction grows. The services most often provided collaboratively include health and human services, transit systems, airports, sewage collection, disposal of hazardous wastes, libraries, tax assessing, and title records. Other services that can be regionalized include floodplain services; animal control; emergency, ambulance, fire, and police; shared, web-based software systems; and customer service.

The bigger question is whether governments should regionalize and share services. This is where collaboration with a COG pays off, as they typically have the resources and skills to achieve collaboration among key stakeholders. Having these types of discussions early in the process is crucial. All of the departments involved must understand the challenges and pain points facing each jurisdiction, as well as the service needs and soft costs. Soft costs can include governance and monitoring costs, benefits, and the value of improved citizen satisfaction.

THE REGIONAL APPROACH: POST-HURRICANE KATRINA

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the State of Louisiana with a force that the United States had never before seen in a natural disaster. The hurricane caused hundreds of billions of dollars of property damage and economic losses. With the insurance industry demanding statewide building codes, Louisiana faced some major challenges in the recovery process. A state mandate required 369 certified building officials (one for each county and municipality in the state), hundreds of certified residential and commercial inspectors, and hundreds of certified plan reviewers. In addition, many jurisdictions did not have or even understand building codes, and most departments had to be created from scratch.

These challenges, along with other factors, led many areas of Louisiana to seek a regional solution to comply with the new requirements, which included safety, state law, insurance, staff shortages, the need for self-sustaining departments, and lack of funding. The affected jurisdictions quickly implemented the regional model, which has become an example that many others have since followed.

A state contract provided funds in "emergency areas" that received the most damage. A regional approach was enacted in multiple jurisdictions. These regional models usually involved intergovernmental agreements and some type of partnership with experts in the building code industry.

Over the long term, these...

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