Several factors came together to induce communities to give the arrangement a try:
Economic conditions. In 2010, local governments still recovering from the Great Recession were looking for ways to assimilate funding cuts without compromising services.
Unique intergovernmental dynamics. With 1,451 local governments, northern Illinois has the nation’s highest concentration of individual municipalities per square mile. To reduce redundancies and overhead, communities routinely pool resources and share services such as fire response.
Experience with pooled purchasing. Many of the communities already took advantage of state bidding programs and organizations such as councils of government and buying consortiums. Examples of joint buying programs in Illinois include:
- Northwest Municipal Conference (NWMC), established in 1958, representing more than 40 communities; co-sponsor of a joint-purchasing program focusing primarily on bulk goods.
- Lake County Municipal League, a fee-based organization promoting joint legislative action, information sharing and networking; last year introduced pooled purchasing for crack sealing, pavement marking, and street sweeping.
- City of Naperville Job Order Contracting, oriented toward facility-related services, offering a joint purchase agreement among the city, school and park districts, and neighboring agencies.
- State of Illinois Procurement Bulletin list of contracting opportunities for local governments statewide; oversees procurement of up to $15 billion of goods and services per year.
Such regionally focused umbrella organizations often charge fees and tend to focus primarily on commodities, such as rock salt purchases. Complex service contracts are more effectively managed by the municipalities themselves.
Today, 30 suburbs in four counties, with populations ranging from 2,500 to 75,000, participate in MPI joint bids for more than 20 services. Contracts range from simple services with a few line items, such as crack sealing, to complex construction specifications such as road resurfacing.
MPI representatives met in late December to discuss planned projects for 2014. New services being explored this year include elevator inspections, landscaping, valve turning, and rock salt purchasing. Also, several multiyear contracts from 2011-13 came up for renewal.
DuPage County has expanded its MPI participation this year, with 14 agencies participating in about a dozen contracts. New to the program is the Village of Downers Grove, which is participating in four contracts: crack sealing, concrete flatwork, sewer televising and cleaning, and emergency services.
“We attended MPI meetings and they showed us graphically how the group has split off into smaller subgroups to bid projects geographically or by size of work,” says Public Works Director Nan Newlon. Newlon and her fellow DuPage County representatives agreed it made sense to operate as a subgroup under the MPI umbrella. She expects Downers Grove to add MPI contracts as existing multiyear contracts expire.