The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

June 11, 2010

Geneva wins efficient government funds

Star Beacon

GENEVA — An efficient government project that includes the Geneva City Water Department has won a $70,000 slice of funding in the second round of EfficientGovNow competition.

The “Geographic Information System Cooperative for Small Communities and Utilities” ended up ranking sixth in the online and mail-in voting that took place in May. However, Brad Whitehead, president of the competition’s sponsor, the Fund for Our Economic Future, said the decision was made to also fund the cooperative because of the strong support it received.

“The backers of the GIS Cooperative for Small Communities and Utilities did a great job of getting out the vote and earned the grant,” Whitehead said. “We are encouraged to see a growing number of residents calling for more local government collaboration. It is clear that the public expects local governments to collaborate and, increasingly, local officials are making collaboration the norm, not the exception. That was our goal when we started EfficientGovNow last year.”

Unfortunately, neither the voters nor the fund mustered the same enthusiasm for another cooperative project to come out of Ashtabula County. A proposal  to create a collaborative of planning departments in the county came in last in the voting, garnering only 1,507 points.

The GIS project earned 6,865 votes. Leveraging funding from the Rural Community Assistance Program, the cooperative will create a partnership between communities and a water authority in Ashtabula, Columbiana, Summit, Carroll and Lorain counties. The cooperative will digitally map all water, sewer and storm water utilities owned by the participating entries and, as time allows, other community assets.

The mapping should improve efficiency and maintenance while providing faster response times to service interruptions. The small utilities that make up the collaborative should be able to save money and provide better service as a result of having the digital resource.

The proposal will also help fund a small portion of the continuing organizational development of the cooperative. The idea is to provide the technology and qualified personnel that small governments and utilities individually are not able to afford. The expected long-term outcome will be a cost-effective, shared, Internet-based GIS service available to all small municipalities and public utilities in Ohio.

“Once we get this cooperative and shared Web site up and running, other small communities can enter the agreement and the costs will continue to drop,” said David Gilbert, Geneva Water Department superintendent. “I want to thank everyone who voted for this project, it will be a great asset for the city to have.”