Grant money to the tune of $400,000 is up for grabs by any of Erie County’s municipalities. It is likely to be tapped aggressively, because funding of this nature has never been available until now.
Named the Multi-Municipal Collaborations Grant, the monies are set aside by the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority (ECGRA). “We are unleashing the creativity of local government,” states Perry Wood, Executive Director of ECGRA. “This is pioneering stuff.”
Believed to be the first of its kind, this grant program is designed to ignite “functional cooperation” among Erie County’s 38 municipalities. Functional cooperation is government-speak for getting municipalities to work together. Local governments are attracted to this opportunity through their never-ending quest to maximize efficiencies, reduce waste, and all together stretch tax dollars. In fact, it is widely held that such cooperation generally leads to heightened efficiencies and improves the cost-effective delivery of public services.
Examples of multi-municipal projects might include sharing specialized equipment, public park marketing, joint purchasing for supplies, and collaborating on refuse collection.
One applicant is the Erie Area Council On Governments (EACOG) for its E-Government Initiative. E-Government uses two key pieces of software to do its thing: Laserfiche and Microsoft SharePoint. The main advantage of the system is “delivering the right document to the right person at the right time,” says David Henderson, Chair of the E-Government Initiative committee.
E-Government will enable municipalities to communicate securely, upload documents, such as ordinances and forms, and keep a current calendar. Parking tickets may be paid on-line, and building permits may be applied for and tracked in real-time, explains Wood. E-Government benefits the taxpayer by increasing accessibility to information, and streamlining processes – especially those where multiple offices and municipalities are involved.
“We really believe this is cutting edge,” Henderson says. “No other system exists that served as a model – at least not to this scale.” Since governments are different sizes with different needs, they can pick and choose what services they want.
“I really believe this is the wave of the future for local governments,” Henderson says. “I think of my granddaughter. She’s grown up with computers. She’s 14 now. Anything she wants to do, she expects it instantaneously. It is a general transition we are all making [to an electronic world.] Government needs to be responsive to that as transparently and as instantaneously as possible.”
According to Wood, ECGRA’s entire budget is funded by one-half of one percent of the gross revenue of the Presque Isle Downs and Casino in Erie. Last year’s budget was $6 million.
The deadline for Multi-Municipal Collaborations Grant applications is Dec. 6, 2012. For details visit ECGRA’s website.
PATTI ORTON is an Erie-based freelance writer who covers agribusiness, wine and tourism. Send feedback here.