• Suburban Concrete of Mundelein, Ill., finishes replacing sidewalks in one of 30 communities participating in a shared-purchasing program. Other joint bids include water meter testing, sewer lining, and hydrant painting.

    Credit: Richard Lanenga Photography

    Suburban Concrete of Mundelein, Ill., finishes replacing sidewalks in one of 30 communities participating in a shared-purchasing program. Other joint bids include water meter testing, sewer lining, and hydrant painting.
A municipality-based joint buying initiative gaining momentum in suburban Chicago has saved participating communities more than $1.23 million since it was launched three years ago. Under the Municipal Partnering Initiative (MPI), some 30 communities have joined forces to procure a wide range of public works and construction services.

It started in September 2010, when 18 northern Illinois municipalities in Cook and Lake counties discussed options for pooling contracted services in an effort to tap economies of scale. Spearheading the initiative was the Village of Glenview under Village Manager Todd Hileman. The ad hoc group identified about 40 commonly outsourced services and commodities such as road resurfacing and sewer lining.

Four communities participated in a pilot project involving a crack-sealing contract. An existing purchasing cooperative had been issuing bids for crack sealing. “The purchasing cooperative had discontinued the joint bid for this service, so we targeted it,” says Glenview Public Works Director Jerry Burke. “It grew to be one of our largest [in terms of participation] and the economies of scale were very favorable.” Eight additional communities participated in 2011 and the contract was extended with a further price reduction.

In 2011, MPI’s first full year, 20 communities participated in 11 joint bids for nine services:

  • concrete
  • crack-sealing
  • emergency contractor assistance
  • hydrant painting
  • leak detection
  • resurfacing (separate contracts for two counties)
  • sewer lining (two groups)
  • sewer televising
  • water meter testing.

  • While some municipalities share borders, others are more than 30 miles apart. Where appropriate, Municipal Partnering Initiative (MPI) services are divided into geographic subgroups as shown here for concrete flatwork.

    Credit: MPI

    While some municipalities share borders, others are more than 30 miles apart. Where appropriate, Municipal Partnering Initiative (MPI) services are divided into geographic subgroups as shown here for concrete flatwork.
“We picked some easy bids—the low-hanging fruit—to test the waters,” says Burke. “The pricing we received paved the way for participation growth.” The $9 million in contracts produced savings ranging from $389,500 to $529,500. In 2012 the program expanded to 17 joint bids for 14 services.

This swift success earned the MPI a 2012 Community Partnership Award from the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). The award recognizes collaboration among local governments and other entities on innovative programs or processes to improve services.