Open the door to cooperation

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City and its neighbors should resume talks on more efficient services.

IS IT POSSIBLE folks around Janesville and Milton know something we haven’t figured out here in the Greater Beloit community?

Tonight the Janesville City Council will be discussing an intergovernmental agreement with Milton that could result in an increasing degree of consolidation between the communities’ fire departments, the Janesville Gazette reported. Right now the departments perform mutual aid when needed, but the new approach would clear the way for far higher levels of cooperation.

In fact, within a few years there’s speculation a complete merger could take place as the two cities try to save money and improve efficiencies.

MEANWHILE, WHEN Beloit City Council President David Luebke asked officials in the Town of Beloit to just talk about the pros and cons of consolidating services to possibly save taxpayers money while assuring a sustainable future, he was peremptorily rebuffed. Town officials made clear that issue was off the table.

Instead, the township has been talking about further distancing itself from Beloit by possibly incorporating into a municipal format. If that happens, it’s pretty much a permanent divorce — not that the town and city ever tied the knot.

In pursuit of the incorporation outcome Town of Beloit officials have been interested in discussing a boundary agreement with the city. Apparently, Luebke thought that increased the quid pro quo potential for discussions into various options for reforming the ways in which public services are delivered. The two neighbors clearly were viewing the situation from opposite perspectives and meaningful talks stalled.

FULL DISCLOSURE, for years we’ve been advocating the city and its neighbors get together routinely to explore opportunities to deliver public services cheaper and more effectively.

And, for years, such considerations have fallen on deaf ears.

The urban zones of Greater Beloit obviously are one continuous community. Yes, there are arbitrary jurisdictional lines local government entities observe. But from up above looking down this is one community, not a hodgepodge carved up like a Christmas turkey.

This is not a wealthy community. In fact, it’s one of the poorer communities in Wisconsin. Every local government is stretched trying to make budget and still deliver services. That is not likely to get better any time soon.

So why can’t we talk about playing well together?

LET’S LEAVE THE Town of Beloit’s interest in incorporation for another day. We still believe there is value for taxpayers in serious talks between the city and its neighbors — not just the Town of Beloit — over ways to get better at delivering efficient services. We hope the same old obstacles can be overcome and discussions can proceed.

If Janesville and Milton see value in slowly and carefully opening the door wider to cooperation, why not here?

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