Next week the Leavenworth County Commission will play host to a group of their peers from around the region for a brainstorming session on potential cooperative efforts in the future.
Leavenworth County Commissioner Dennis Bixby said the half-day meeting Aug. 6 at the county courthouse stemmed from an earlier conversation that took place at a larger county officials' conference in Wichita.
He said many smaller counties at that conference shared how they have had a harder time than larger communities like Leavenworth in keeping services going during tough financial times.
They might have a lot to learn from each other, he said. For instance, Leavenworth County was one of the first in the state, much less to the region, to implement a new digital public safety communications system. County Clerk Janet Klasinski said the meeting could help with other communities now facing that same transition.
“Some of that is going to be mandated by 2016, so other counties are going to want to see our pros and cons on what happened,” she said.
Other potential topics include approaches for road and bridge improvements, mental health and emergency medical services. But Bixby said the idea is not just to help educate other counties on how to tackle those problems themselves.
“The reason we're getting everyone together is to kind of get everybody on the same page, working together, let them find out what we did that worked so well and also what we're currently doing and how they can network with that,” he said.
The county does have cooperative purchasing agreements, like with several cities in the county to purchase rock salt for ice and snow operations and for some pieces of equipment through the state. For many of those smaller communities, consolidation and partnership has been a matter of survival, Bixby said, a theme that came out at the earlier Wichita conference. However, the beginning of this conversation does not mean Leavenworth County will begin to subsidize operations in other communities. Rather, he said he felt all participants in the meeting next week will have something to share with the others.
“We're not going to send our dollars to other counties,” he said. “But they can learn from our experience and I think we can also gain on how well they've been able to survive and see what economies that they've tried and work to save them money.”