A group of central Ohio municipalities and agencies will use a $93,000 grant to study how they may be able to save money by sharing or consolidating information technology services.
The project funded by the Ohio Local Government Innovation Fund ultimately could save the partners at least 30 percent on technology costs, said Bret Longberry, director of the Metropolitan Educational Center's Information Technology Center.
The Metropolitan Educational Center serves as the lead agency in the IT partnership. Other participants include the cities of Dublin, Grandview Heights, Upper Arlington and Westerville; Prairie Township; the Columbus and Franklin County Metropolitan Park District, the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio; and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.
"We're all funded by taxpayer money, so any way we can find to save money is important," Longberry said.
The idea of the IT partnership rose from the participants' previous joint membership in the Central Ohio Regional Shared Services Committee, which has fostered cost-saving cooperative programs in areas such as health insurance and diesel fuel purchases, he said.
"Technology services just seemed like a natural progression from what we've been working on before," Longberry said.
The group made an initial attempt to win innovation fund money almost a year ago, but succeeded on its second try after MORPC joined the effort.
"This type of effort represents the essence of what MORPC is," said Laura Koprowski, director of public and government affairs for the agency.
"One of our missions is to serve as a bridge to help bring various communities in our region together in ways that can help them and the central Ohio area," she said.
The partners in the Central Ohio Public Sector IT Partnership bring varied technological abilities to the table, Koprowski said.
"It's a chance to match up entities that are more robust in their IT capabilities with mid-size agencies or smaller municipalities, like Grandview and Prairie Township, that don't have the resources for a full-fledged IT team," she said.
In Grandview, for example, Fire Chief Steve Shaner oversees the city's IT services, Koprowski said.
"He does a great job, but he has only so much time and resources," she said.
A study is underway to make a comprehensive assessment of each partner's IT resources, Longberry said.
"We expect to have the study completed by the end of July and then we will sit down to look at developing a plan for how we can share our IT resources" to both save money and improve efficiency, he said.
The partners will work with Columbus-based Public Performance Partners to review the study's findings. The nonprofit business works with public-sector organizations on shared service strategies.
Once a plan is developed, other area communities and agencies may be able to participate in the cooperative programs, Longberry said.
"We also hope that the plan we come up with can serve as a role model for other regions in Ohio," he said.