Janesville49.6°

County hopes for intergovernmental cooperation

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Mike Heine
February 27, 2008
— Every city, town and village is a character in the same book on Walworth County. But what’s the story line between them? How do they interact? Get along? Coincide?

Those are things the new Intergovernmental Cooperation Council hopes to find out.


The group had its first planning session Tuesday at the Walworth County Government Center.


“You can talk about the small grievances that municipalities may have against each other or the county, but I want to step back and look at the big picture,” County Administrator David Bretl said in an interview. “Rather than looking at areas of disagreement, let’s see where common ground might lay.”


Each of the county’s 16 towns, seven villages and four cities was invited to have a representative on the committee, preferably municipal leaders. Most were represented.


Bretl moderated but will not be a voting member of the council.


The council will look at ways the members can collaborate services or run more efficiently through cooperation, Bretl said.


Governments also might learn from one another. Members will share ideas so other municipalities can implement them in their own structures if they choose, he said.


Topics Bretl suggested the group explore at future meetings include:


-- Best practices: “If every municipality does something well … you can replicate the best practices throughout Walworth County.”


-- Current examples of intergovernmental cooperation: “One of the things we hope to accomplish is to catalog the agreements we have already.”


-- Water supply and quality: “Aquifers are something that don’t follow municipal boundaries.”


-- Legislative issues: “I think we could be so much more effective if it was a unified voice from the county on those issues on which we have common ground.”


The council likely will develop its own list of other topics to discuss at later meetings. Already brought up were border agreements and emergency government procedures.


Bretl expects a series of six meetings over an 18-month span before the sunset clause on the committee elapses. The committee could decide then if it’s worthwhile to continue.


“It seems any time you can talk about stuff it’s a good idea,” Elkhorn Administrator Sam Tapson said. “Where it goes, I don’t know.


“Presumably, we should be working on everything and everything together. If nothing else, it helps us understand the point of view the county takes, or a town takes or a city takes on any number of issues.”


“I think through this we can find better ways to realize how to save taxpayers money,” Delavan Mayor Mel Nieuwenhuis said.


The committee is for brainstorming and discussion only. It has no ability to enact law, taxes or binding agreements. Each municipality will have to decide on its own if it wants to pursue suggestions from the committee.


“Hopefully by the end, it will produce some good things,” Bretl said.



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