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DuPage County, forest preserve lay foundation for more cost savings

Though some of DuPage County's shared services with the county Forest Preserve District are for unglamorous things, taxpayers have $275,000 in cost savings to show for it, according to leaders from the government bodies.

County Board Chairman Dan Cronin, Forest Preserve District President Joe Cantore and Forest Preserve commissioner Jeff Redick outlined the cost-savings that have occurred through joint purchases, shared information technology and combined public works projects at a press conference March 8.

The county providing maps and other geographic information system services for the Forest Preserve District and the district opting into the county's Adobe software license “are not going to be a headline story on the 5:30 news," Cronin admitted, "but they're the kind of things we have been doing for the last year and a half.”

While any cost reductions are important, Cronin said, the $275,000 in savings – $200,000 of which will be seen on an annual basis – is more important in its message of “a change in culture” with county government.

"It used to be each elected official ran their unit of government in a little silo and it was their mission in life to build up this empire and have their own independent departments to run every need that they may have," he said. “That's not the way we do business in DuPage County,"

Cronin said he was a senator in the Illinois General Assembly when the issue of separating the county and Forest Preserve District came up to preserve what Cronin called "purity."

"We wanted the Forest Preserve to be singly focused on preserving open space, conservation of lands and nature areas," he said. "And the thinking at the time was that there was a conflict. There is a County Board member who has a mission and a responsibility to promote economic development and also has a mission to preserve and protect open space.”

Cronin credited Cantore and other Forest Preserve leaders with working to “turn that ship around” with the county government agency, which led to efforts for the county and Forest Preserve District to share services wherever possible.

The $275,000 savings has been seen through:

• GIS shared services – $126,421 annually

• Adobe licensing agreement – $75,000 over a three-year contract

• Gravel and sand, with the Forest Preserve District joining the county's cooperative purchasing contract – $29,300 annually

• Co-location, with the county providing space for Forest Preserve District's back-up computer equipment – $25,000 annually

• Software licensing, with the county working with the Forest Preserve District to procure a vendor for system management software – $19,650 annually

Cantore said sharing services between the county and Forest Preserve District never really happened in the past.

"The genesis of this collaboration, this cooperation, is the taxpayer," Cantore said. "I think the way public service and politics has changed in the past few years, the taxpayers demand more of the people that work for them."

Redick, who served on the DuPage County Board before being tapped to fill Cantore's District 2 Forest Preserve Board seat when he became president in 2014, said the two posts gave him a unique perspective into how the agencies could share resources.

Cronin said Redick has been at the forefront of finding way for the two agencies to share services.

"A lot of the information and experience that I had gathered in serving in those two separate positions lent itself to identifying areas where we could collaborate," Redick said.

The commissioner and former board member said he forsaw more savings as the two government bodies continue to work together.

"This is not the finish line," Redick said. "It is just the starting line."

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