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Published: Tuesday, 6/24/2008

Lucas County moves to trim grass - and bureaucracy

BY LAURA BENNETT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Konop Konop
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If lawn care is any indication of bureaucratic efficiency, Lucas County may be on its way towards streamlining government operations.

Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop yesterday announced that county crews will be taking over responsibility for mowing the grass on the downtown Civic Center Mall, a job that city, county, and federal crews now share.

Under the revamped system, which is estimated to save $11,000 in annual labor, the federal government will contract with the county to mow its portion of the mall, located near Jackson and Erie streets, and the city has agreed to assume responsibility for a piece of property in South Toledo.

"This is symbolic of what we need to do on a larger scale," Mr. Konop said.

The overhauled lawn care system is one idea from the 21st Century Government Panel, a bipartisan group of roughly a dozen citizens Mr. Konop organized a year ago to find ways to condense government procedures and minimize redundancy.

"Since the economy is in a very difficult state, it's nice to see political officials who are making an effort to bring down costs and to better serve the public in the long term," said Jim Holzemer, a former president of the county commissioners and one of the panel's co-chairs.

The committee's plan also includes the expansion of Lucas County's human resources department, fusing various branches into a single unit. County agencies currently operate respective HR departments, for example, which is "very duplicative," Mr. Konop said.

In addition, applicants seeking county jobs will fill out a common application that will soon be used for all departments. Under the current system, potential employees are asked to travel from floor to floor in Government Center and fill out a separate application for each office.

"It's very frustrating to hear that if you are a job seeker," said Brian Cunningham, the county's human resources director. "It doesn't make a lot of sense."

The final element of the panel's modernization plan is an initiative to merge the county and city building regulation and inspection departments.

"This will allow us to provide better services to homeowners, contractors, developers, and consultants who utilize these services," said Steve Herwat, the former head of Toledo building inspections and former director of the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commissions who was hired to study the operations of the two building departments.

City officials cite the potential to save money and consolidate resources as the plan's key benefits.

"In the 21st century, we can get more bang for our buck and we need to get more bang for our buck," said Tom Kroma, assistant chief of staff for the city of Toledo.

Contact Laura Bennett at:

lbennett@theblade.com

or 419-724-6728.



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