By FRED PERRY
Tulsa County Commissioner
WORKING TOGETHER: Tulsa County and the City of Tulsa work together in securing a NatureWorks sculpture for LaFortune Park. From left are, Honoree Win Ingersoll, President of NatureWorks David Bond, Commissioners John Smaligo and Karen Keith, Sculptor Eric Slocombe and Commissioner Fred Perry.
GTR Newspapers photo
It’s no secret that Tulsa County and the City of Tulsa began working to form a committee to explore collaboration and cooperation in 2010. Earlier this year, County Commissioners approved a resolution, and Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett signed an executive order creating the City County Government Collaborative Committee made up of six county officials and six city officials. The group began meeting in February this year.
A result of tightening budgets and the public’s desire to see more cooperation, the primary mission of this committee is to find areas where the city and county governments can work together to find efficiencies and savings of time and money. And while the two organizations have a long working relationship in areas like road construction and community service workers, we wanted to look into new areas to partner and expand our existing partnerships where possible.
I’m proud to say that through the first four months, we’ve found several areas that will make a difference including purchasing, parks and public works/road construction. In the next two months, we will look at other items like human resources and information technology.
This process will not end with only cooperative efforts moving forward at only Tulsa County and the City of Tulsa. We are looking into ways to include other municipalities in Tulsa County and even other public sector organizations. A good example of this is in the area of purchasing, where the purchasing director at Tulsa County and the City of Tulsa came up with the idea to share vendor databases. This may not seem significant, but both organizations buy millions of dollars in goods and services from thousands of vendors. We encourage competition among bidders by reaching more of them and that ultimately can drive down the cost. In addition to sharing vendors, the purchasing staffs are looking to find areas for bulk purchasing. Some of these could include tires, road materials, fuel and paper products.
Other areas that show major promise are public works and roads, as well as parks. As I mentioned earlier, the city and county have partnered on many road projects in the past, but we’re now starting to look at some equipment sharing, and shared storage of materials like salt and sand for use during snow and/or ice storms. It became clear that the city and county have different strengths in the public works area, and that both organizations can certainly benefit from the strengths of the other. In parks, we have some of the same circumstances like equipment or personnel specialties that are complementary. Sharing those resources can save a significant amount of time and money.
The county and the city have identified areas in human resources related to health/wellness initiatives and employee health insurance programs as well. For example, the two HR departments have already agreed to share medical clinics where insured employees and their dependents can be treated for minor illnesses. The two clinics are staffed by Community Care of Oklahoma which is currently underwriting the employee health insurance programs for the county and the city. The city has agreed to open its clinic to insured county employees and the county is opening up its clinic at the Tulsa County Social Services facility to insured city employees. This will provide a minor illness clinic available to employees four days each week.
The readily available health care services should help to reduce the amount of time employees are away from work for illness and by addressing health issues early before they become chronic, should help to reduce cost to the organizations’ health care plans. Additional discussions are ongoing considering the possibility of a joint solicitation of insurance proposals from the health insurance market as a means to attract better pricing based on economy of scale.
Future meetings will explore further opportunities for collaboration and cooperation. The bottom line is that residents of Tulsa County and the City of Tulsa deserve the most efficient and effective local government possible. And while city and county government do not have exactly the same mission or functions, working together where we can only makes sense for taxpayers.