Beloit city, town officials discuss collaboration
BELOIT Leaders of the city and town of Beloit say they are putting decades of friction between the neighboring communities in the past to start a future of working together to provide better, cost-effective services.
Municipal administrators and members of the Beloit City Council and Beloit Town Board met Monday at the Rotary River Center to begin dialogue on collaborating and sharing services.
The opportunity is a chance "for us to truly be neighbors," City Council President Charles Haynes said.
The open discussion brought out many words of encouragement and support from elected officials about how now is the time to work together.
The group agreed to have City Manager Larry Arft, Town Administrator Brian Wilson and their respective department heads meet for a brainstorming session. Ideas will be brought back to a joint meeting between the council and board Nov. 12. Officials agreed to meet quarterly.
The city and town have a successful history of mutual aid agreements for police, fire and EMS, and those leaders regularly work together, officials said. They also agreed public safety should be looked at to improve services and reduce costs.
Other ideas thrown out include joint planning for how Prairie Avenue, a major street connecting the municipalities, should look; providing better gateways at the town/city borders; looking at economic development as a region; and planning for sewer upgrades on the west bank of the Rock River.
Arft also mentioned the city's ongoing collaboration with the city of Janesville. The two communities have conducted joint purchasing, resulting in prices that beat state contracts, he said.
While Town Chairman Rob Pavlik has only been in the community 12 years, his understanding of the contention came from town residents' fear the city would take over the town, he said after the meeting. The town urbanized during tumultuous times in the 1960s and 1970s, Haynes said, and issues at the time created animosity.
Some city residents saw the tax base moving farther away, he said, while people new to the town might have felt they had escaped something.
"None of us here are interested in perpetuating that," Haynes said during the meeting.
The collaboration is about being neighbors, "not changing who we are," he said.
Pavlik agreed keeping community identity is important to the discussions.
Regardless of the history between the communities, the leaders have to be looking forward, said city council member James Van De Bogart. What he sees is diminishing state aid, an increasing demand for services with the complexity of services increasing and the costs for the talents to administer services going up.
He said he didn't think communities the size of Beloit could continue to afford those increases.
"We're on the cusp of a change," he said.