County Selects Center for Governmental Research to Lead Merger Study
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Possible merger between Moreland Hills, Orange Village, Pepper Pike and Woodmere to be analyzed
CLEVELAND – Cuyahoga County has selected the non-profit Center for Governmental Research of Rochester, New York (“CGR”) to lead the Merger/Shared Services Study involving Moreland Hills, Orange Village, Pepper Pike, and Woodmere. CGR will serve as project manager and produce by June a report on the merits of increasing shared services between the communities or possibly merging two, three or all four of them.
“This is an exciting development in our efforts to help communities find more efficient ways to deliver services,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald. “CGR has a proven track record and the four mayors have stepped forward as leaders in finding new, more cost-effective approaches to local government.”
Selected from among four applicants, CGR has past experience leading merger and local government efforts, including: a study that led to the successful merger of Princeton Borough and Princeton Township in New Jersey in 2011; a study on the cost of Northeast Ohio municipal governments for the Cleveland-based Fund for Our Economic Future; and a study of shared equipment opportunities in Lake County. Kent Gardner, PhD of CGR will lead the Merger/Shared Services Study.
“CGR’s impressive staff and relevant experience make them the best choice to lead this complex study,” said Mayor Susan Renda of Moreland Hills. “I believe CGR will provide invaluable insights for our residents and elected officials as we progress through the study.”
Assisted by the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission and the Department of Regional Collaboration, CGR will gather data, conduct interviews and public outreach, and analyze options ranging from shared services between the communities, contractual arrangements with the County or other outside sources, and merger. “We look forward to working with CGR as we study the pros and cons of consolidating services and consider the implications of outright merger,” said Mayor Kathy Mulcahy of Orange Village. “I expect that there will be a lot of substantive analysis on these complex issues and meaningful opportunity for citizen input and involvement in 2013.”
Under Ohio law, the merger of communities is a two-step process. In the event the study recommends the merger of two or more of the communities, the Mayors of those communities could put the question of whether a formal merger study commission should be created on the Fall 2013 ballot. If approved by the voters, the merger study commission would use the next year to further analyze the merits and structure of a merged entity and could place the question of an actual merger on the Fall 2014 ballot.
Mayor Richard Bain of Pepper Pike said, “The engagement of CGR is not in order to come to a predetermined outcome but so that the merits of alternatives available to the communities to achieve sustainability and improvement to the services they offer can be better evaluated. Because merger may be challenging for residents to accept, we must also take advantage of the excellent benefits to be gained from regional cooperative opportunities, short of formal merger, which the study should reveal.”
“For many reasons, mergers are difficult to achieve and it would take both compelling data and public consensus for the entire process to play out,” said the County’s Director of Regional Collaboration Ed Jerse. “However, this Study will be valuable in any event because it will identify opportunities for the communities to find efficiencies and save money even if they do not choose to merge.”
The County won a $100,000 state Local Government Innovation Fund grant and a $34,130 NOACA grant and will use these funds to support the Study.