The city of Upper Arlington is considering joining a new consortium that will enable local governments to compare best practices.

The city of Upper Arlington is considering joining a new consortium that will enable local governments to compare best practices.

New Albany officials are also looking to join the consortium.

The Central Ohio Consortium for Performance Measurement, scheduled to launch next spring, will allow neighboring municipalities to see how they stack up in areas such as law enforcement, parks and recreation, street maintenance and utilities.

Receiving comparative data from other cities will help Upper Arlington increase efficiency, said city manager Virginia Barney.

"We've always had performance measurements. What we've haven't always done is compare" with what other cities are doing, Barney said. "Coming together will help us take a better look at who's doing it better. That will help us, compared to looking at how we did it five years ago."

The Central Ohio Consortium for Performance Measurement will be administered by the International City County Managers Association. The organization collects data from more than 200 local governments nationwide and gives each an opportunity to participate in the Center for Performance Measurement.

"It's an opportunity for cities and counties to compare the performance areas that they might be tracking internally," said Gerald Young, senior management associate for the ICMA Center for Performance Measurement. "They might know that they are doing consistently better or worse on a service. They don't know without looking at other jurisdictions how other jurisdictions that are similar to themselves might also be performing."

In order to facilitate comparisons between governments in the same geographic areas, the ICMA Center for Performance Measurement has established regional consortia in various areas of the country. The Central Ohio Consortium is scheduled to go online in March.

The city of Dublin began using data from the Center for Performance Measurement earlier this year, studying 2008 figures from various cities in areas such as safety services, procurement, custodial service costs, and park and fleet maintenance.

"You can pull out and identify similar cities and get a great deal of detail in regard to where your costs are in line with what seem to be the norm or at great variance with what seems to be the norm," said Dublin city manager Terry Foegler.

The establishment of the Central Ohio Consortium for Performance Measurement will enable bordering cities such as Dublin and Upper Arlington to routinely share cost-saving practices and efficiencies, Foegler said.

"Your best comparisons are close by," he said. "When you're looking at snow removal, costs of labor, those things are usually pretty similar."

The village of New Albany has subscribed to the ICMA's performance measurement data for the past two years.

"Being a smaller community, some of the items that are measured don't apply to us," said New Albany village administrator Joe Stefanov. "New Albany does not have a fire department. We work through the (Plain) township. That's something that is not a directly-provided village service. We also contract for trash collection. Some of those measures are not really applicable to our relationship with Rumpke."

Establishing the Central Ohio Consortium will enable municipalities of similar size to make accurate comparisons, he said.

"What we hope to accomplish by assembling a group of central Ohio communities is develop a list of items we want to measure and benchmark and have that list consist of items that are appropriate for us and have that list be comprised of useful information in improving our services," he said.

The ICMA charges a sliding fee scale for the performance measurement data. New Albany, with a population of 3,711 according to the 2000 Census, pays about $2,600 annually, while a city the size of Upper Arlington with 33,000 residents would pay $5,500.

Comparing Upper Arlington's operations to its neighbors will help the city improve on what it's already doing, Barney said.

"We're already measuring," she said. "We'll learn as we go."

cbournea@thisweeknews.com