Merger Report Recommends Metro Government Consider In-Depth Review

by Devin Katayama on September 5, 2011

The government consulting firm that released last week’s Metro Government merger report says the city may benefit from a more in-depth audit.

Public Works, LLC came into Metro Government’s $30,000 grant-funded project with an open mind, said senior consultant Marion Reitz. After 100 hours of research, the report affirmed many issues already being discussed in some Merger 2.0 Task Force subcommittees. But the report should be used as just one of the tools to direct Metro Government to areas it should study further, said Reitz.

Certain topics subcommittees discuss are not new. Fire and EMS talk about whether a merger is necessary, solid waste knows its current system allows five different waste collectors to drive all over the county in a less than efficient way. This is why Mayor Greg Fischer appointed the task force.

The report goes further to recommend the county consider merging fire and EMS, re-working its solid waste system by re-contracting and creating more competition among service providers, and keeping better city and county records.

The report should be considered a positive thing, despite recommending the consideration of a fire and EMS merger, said Jeffersontown Fire Chief Randy Lawson. And he said he hopes that the fire and EMS subcommittee can have dialog about what the data shows.

“And we can ask intelligent questions because we’ve had some time to look at it and then say, hey we really think this information is useful let’s build on it or we think this one has a flaw let’s go correct those numbers and we could use it to,” said Lawson.

It has been difficult to collect data on fire and EMS, organize it, and then determine how the two agencies can operate more efficiently. That’s the issue Lawson brings up after determining that the report should be considered one of many pieces of information used to make recommendations to the full task force and then finally to Fischer.

The report further compares Jefferson County suburban and urban fire departments and its EMS to the Nashville, Davidson County merged system, which covers a similar size population. Davidson County spends around $23 million less, the report shows. But many members of the fire and EMS subcommittee have said it’s difficult to compare counties and each should be considered independently.

Among other recommendations, the report says Metro Government should consider a “performance review”, where an outside firm could get into the weeds of how city services are operating, said Reitz.

“We go in and we challenge we what services are being provided, why, why they’re begin provided the way there are and if there are ways to do them more efficiently,” she said.

A performance review is a non-monetary audit that dissects each Metro Government service in depth by working closely with employees in certain service areas, said Reitz. Unlike the current report, there are strong reasons and data backing up recommendations from a performance review, she said.

“There’s really a blue print for what needs to happen in order to achieve the savings. In those instances we have a very high percentage of implementations of recommendations,” she said.

Performance reviews can range in cost from $200,000 to more than $1 million, but it could save Metro Government three to five percent of the general fund, said Reitz.

With less than a month before the full panel is expected to make its recommendations to Fischer, subcommittees will be trying to pull together months of information and data to show how the county has operated since its 2003 merger.

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