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State should let local governments cooperate

January 25, 2012
Gary Andersen, Lee Smith , Fairmont Sentinel

We applaud the efforts of a local government coalition comprised of Minnesota cities, counties and schools that is trying to push the state into the 21st century. The coalition has asked state lawmakers to make it easier for local officials to streamline public services without state approval.

Among the ideas that could come to fruition under a loosening of state oversight: shared health care services among local governments; using school buses for general community service; and creating public safety districts that share police, fire and ambulance service.

At the Legislature, one bill would allow counties to directly carry out decisions regarding public health, safety and welfare. Current state law prohibits counties from doing so.

We know that cooperation, consolidation and other efficiencies can work well, because we've seen it right here in our front yard. For instance, Martin and Faribault counties have garnered praise for combined human services departments. The small towns of Sherburn and Welcome have one police force. School districts have combined. Now, it is time for the next step in tearing down the walls between local governments by rewriting the laws that prohibit them from cooperating further.

We hope our area lawmakers are listening and are willing to help carry forward this important agenda.



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