Municipalities in Jefferson County, Wis., could save money by sharing services, according to a report released by the Wisconsin Policy Forum, a nonpartisan public policy research group. The report highlighted that sharing or consolidating fire services could reduce fleet needs, while sharing Public Works services could reduce the need for specialized equipment and result in more efficient fleet management.

Jefferson County commissioned the report from the Forum to help address service delivery challenges resulting from budget constraints and human resources limitations. At the same time, new technologies, aging populations, and economic growth are driving increased demand for local services. The report focuses on the county’s seven largest municipalities.

“Fire engines, ladder trucks, and other emergency vehicles require costly capital investment, and consolidation or service sharing could offer the opportunity to strategically deploy vehicles in a manner that would reduce the overall fleet and eliminate certain replacement costs,” the report stated.

As for Public Works, the reported noted that equipment and vehicle costs are high, and cities and the county often operate similarly and have similar fleet needs.

“As is sometimes the case with neighboring fire departments, it is possible that there is equipment duplication amongst the communities, with some possibly spending resources on seldom-used equipment that may be available for use from a neighboring community,” the report stated.

The review showed potential for these cities to enhance public works services through greater sharing and collaboration but does not support the notion of fully consolidating one or more public works departments. Rather, the report recommends joint purchasing, sharing specialized equipment, or more efficient fleet management practices such as storage of backup equipment at the county-level in the event of a mechanical breakdown. Vehicles that can be shared include brine makers, leaf suckers, street sweepers if they can be transported, cherry pickers, pavement markers, sewer cameras and televising trucks, excavators, easement machines, and chip spreaders. Equipment such as snowplows, which need to be used in multiple jurisdictions at the same time, should not be shared.

The county could also participate by allowing municipalities to borrow large construction equipment, the report stated.

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