CINCINNATI - A war of words erupted Thursday over the lack of progress in studying possible ways the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County can share services.
Hamilton County Commission President Greg Hartmann fired the first round, accusing Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory of failing to follow-through on promises to get a shared services commission up and running.
Mayor Mallory hasn't commented yet, since he's on an economic development trip in France.
Hartmann's frustration was evident during a live interview with anchor Tanya O'Rourke on WCPO-TV's Noon News.
"The mayor agreed to it a year ago and he's not following through, so I'm not happy about it," Hartmann told O'Rourke.
Studying ways the city and county can work together to save money is a direct result of years of budget shortfalls and significant cuts in services.
Three co-chairs have been hired -- Bob Kohlkepp, Tom Cody and Cynthia Booth. The city, county and Cincinnati Business Committee have each promised $100,000 to fund the effort. Resolutions have been passed committing both governments to the project. However, nothing has happened beyond those steps.
"It's a great frustration for all of us," Hartmann said. "It's should be a great frustration for the citizens who live here because if not now, when, on combining services that are clearly duplicative."
The mayor's staff was sent a transcript of Hartmann's comments to send overseas, but no response had been received by early Thursday evening.
What sort of services could be studied for possible combination?
Hartmann said he believes it's a long list.
"The city and the county have prosecutor's offices. The city and the county have building departments. The city and the county have maintenance departments," he said.
Cincinnati Vice-Mayor Roxanne Qualls refused to comment on the Hartmann-Mallory flap, but did note that exploring shared services is a good idea.
"We owe it to taxpayers who need to understand that we really are not duplicating services and that we are providing the best value for the money," she said.
Qualls said certain types of bulk purchasing is already being done by the city and county.
"We could also look at does it make sense to actually share services around building inspections and permits," she said. "If not share those services, perhaps as has been recommended co-locate permitting for both the county and the city in the same building so it's more efficient for people."
Sharing heavy equipment in some instances is another item that Qualls said merits further study so it's constantly used, instead of sitting idle 99 percent of the time.
The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office jointly patrolled the Over-the-Rhine with the Cincinnati Police Department several years ago. Work began on exploring a possible merger, but details never were worked out.
"That is very complicated," Qualls said. "You have very different types of departments and different types of cultures, so before that discussion should ever occur again, we need to see if we can just do the basics."
To read Greg Hartmann's letter to Cincinnati City Council about the shared services, go to http://media2.wcpo.com/pdfs/LETTERTOMALLORY.pdf .
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