A Publication of WTVP

In last month’s column, I wrote about how important it was for the City of Peoria and the Office of the Mayor to be involved with Peoria’s public schools. I argued then, and continue to believe, that we all have a stake in the quality of our educational system. What is good for District 150 is good for all of us, including the municipal corporation of Peoria.

Actually, it is important for the City and I to be actively engaged with all of the other governments that serve Peoria. The Metropolitan Airport Authority of Peoria, Peoria Park District, Illinois Central College and the various school districts all play a very important role in providing critical services to our citizens. It is vitally important that all the parts are working well and working together. This extends to our regional partners and governments in nearby communities.

I am especially proud of the growing partnership between the City and Peoria County. Of course, every resident of the City is also a citizen of the County, but you might not realize that 62 percent of County residents are citizens of the City, according to 2006 Census estimates. Needless to say, we serve a lot of the same people. While we have very specific roles to play, it is important that we work together to provide the best and most efficient services possible.

It all starts at the top. Did you know that the new chairman of the Peoria County Board, Tom O’Neill, is also a long-time employee of the City’s Public Works department (as an electrician)? Chairman O’Neill is continuing the excellent work of his predecessor, Bill Prather, in reaching out a hand of cooperation to the City. Also among the County Board, Bud Sous (District 5) is a 12-year veteran of the City’s Fire Department. For the past few years, he has worked with other board representatives and City Council members on streamlining services between the two entities.

As important as these relationships are, the real work gets done at the staff level. Our two staffs are constantly reviewing our areas of interface, looking for opportunities to provide better, more efficient services at the lowest possible cost. The County and City collaborate on a wide range of projects. Informally, there is probably not one City or County department that does not routinely confer and partner with its counterpart.

Formally, the City and County probably do more together than most citizens ever realize. Often overlooked is the County’s stewardship of the Bel-Wood Nursing Home, a service from which we all benefit. Years ago, we merged services into one Health Department, administered by the County. We also jointly own the City-County Landfill, which provides funding for county-wide recycling efforts. The City’s Emergency Communications Center dispatches not only the City’s police and fire departments, but also the County Sheriff, County Coroner and all of the volunteer fire departments. In a one-of-a-kind arrangement in Illinois, the City provides animal control services to the entire county. Recently, our two governments partnered to expand abatement of lead paint in homes around the new Glen Oak School.

Two particular areas require a great deal of teamwork. The first is law enforcement, where there is a constant partnership between the Peoria Police Department and Peoria County Sheriff. This partnership was recently evidenced by CrimeView Mapping, a joint project that will help both units track and solve crimes more effectively. The Sheriff also operates the County Jail, which holds persons who are awaiting arraignment. This arrangement saves citizens money because the City does not need to maintain and staff its own booking and holding facility. Obviously, there is an everyday interface between the two units at both the street level and department level. This partnership is more visible when we share resources for K-9, bomb disposal, drug interdiction, domestic violence and tactical response. We’re lucky that Chief Settingsgaard and Sheriff McCoy have an outstanding professional relationship.

The second large area of cooperation is in economic development. We both have similar business development loan programs that provide crucial gap financing to new and expanding businesses. We often pool those resources to maximize growth. The City has partnered with the County on projects ranging from small restaurant expansions to larger projects like Firefly Energy. Further evidence of the tremendous role that the County plays in this area is the leadership they have taken regarding the Peoria Riverfront Museum project. Regardless of what you think of the recent referendum, the County Board had the courage to wade through the issue, find a potential solution, and ask you, the voter, for your opinion.

No unit of local government is an island. You should be comforted to know that we are all working together to make sure Peoria is the best community in Illinois. iBi