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Letters Published in March 18, 2009 Issue
March 18, 2009 - Letter submitted by Nate LaMar, New Castle
As of this writing, I have served as County Council President for one month (the January meeting was postponed until February 11, due to weather). Therefore, I thought a report to the citizens of Henry County was in order. Never did I expect to be serving as County Council President two years into my freshman term. Thankfully I didn’t get it two minutes into my term, as Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts did!
With the Governor and state legislature steadily enhancing County Councils’ fiscal and legislative authority over other public entities in each county, rest assured that Henry County Council seeks the absolute best stewardship of your hard-earned taxpayer dollars through unique and innovative solutions, to include:
1. Joint purchasing: Group buying power creates economies of scale, which yield increased savings. In late 2007, at our initiation, I invited to a County Council meeting representatives of each school district in Henry County, the city of New Castle and other municipalities, and the county departments that use fuel (Highway, Sheriff, etc.). The first result was a joint fuel purchasing contract between the city of New Castle and the Henry Co. Sheriff’s Dept. We will see more joint purchasing develop.
2. Postage savings: Most County Council members now receive information for each Council meeting (such as additional appropriations, individual department requests, minutes of the last meeting, ordinance proposals, etc.) via email, rather than via US mail. In addition, we now pick-up inter-office mail and pay stubs from the County Auditor’s office, rather than having them mailed to us. 42 cents (or more) per letter may not sound like much, but long-term, it will result in substantial savings.
3. Job classifications: In addition to attrition, as county employees retire or leave, working closely with the County Commissioners, we are seeking to combine duties, as much as possible. The latest example includes having the same person soon fulfilling the duties of both the County Surveyor’s secretary and Drainage Board’s secretary. County Council members of the Job Classification Committee include Mike Thalls (Chairman), Harold Griffin, and Jeff Hancock.
4. Continuous Improvement: I am acquainted with two organizations in the county, Draper Inc. (my employer) and Henry County Hospital, which have improved their efficiency by practicing Continuous Improvement. Also known as Lean Manufacturing, this is a system of simple but powerful tools to identify and eliminate waste and streamline processes in any organization. At the March County Council meeting, I will propose that the Council consider whether Continuous Improvement could be applied to county government to help address our budgetary problems.
Finally, as a firm believer in transparency in government, and its resultant openness and accountability, I will announce in Henry Co. newspapers that we seek applicants from any Henry Co. registered voter for the County Council’s appointments to various boards and commissions, when current appointments expire, typically at the end of certain calendar years. These include: Alcoholic Beverage Board; Convention & Visitors Bureau Board; Emergency Management Advisory Council; First Aid Unit Board; New Castle-Henry Co. Public Library Board; Planning Commission; Spiceland Township Public Library Board; and Tourism Commission. In addition, I have asked County Council members with unlisted phone numbers to please become listed, so that they can be more accessible to taxpayers. The beauty of Henry Co. Council is its true spirit of bipartisan cooperation. In fact, observing our meetings, it is very difficult to tell the Democrats from the Republicans! We follow the Open Door Law to the letter. County Commissioners President Kim Cronk and I now meet at least monthly over lunch.
Next month’s report will focus on our economic development efforts. I hope a new era of cost-savings and transparency will restore the public’s confidence in government, at least in Henry County.
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