One of the roles of the Chamber is to speak for the business community. Last week in this column, we recited the history of how our community consolidated some of the functions provided by local government. We felt it was important to remind our current officials how 30 years of collaboration enabled Lee County and its municipalities to work together for its citizens. These consolidated services have helped business in many ways.
For example, having one planning and community development department, one building inspections and permitting office, one tax office and one geographic information systems office has be a great benefit to real estate professionals, property developers and homebuilders. The “one-stop shop” system gives us a real advantage over neighboring communities — just ask any developer. Saving time equates to saving money for these busy business people.
One parks and recreation department has provided better long range planning and coordination of resources. One animal control office provides better response and accountability, not to mention saving money. Our economic development efforts, as well as our airport authority, operate better because of combined planning and collaboration.
Some of these interlocal agreements may need “tweaking” ... some may need to be rewritten altogether. If financial considerations have gotten out of line, our governments should make the necessary adjustments. For example, the City of Sanford is currently paying the county a fee to collect property taxes. If the current fee of 1 percent of the amount collected is not covering costs for the county, the fee should be adjusted.
While we’re talking about the cost of services, we should make the point that not every service should be delivered based on low cost alone. In some cases, convenience to the public should be considered equally to the cost. Saving time is a cost savings to many businesses.
Our local governments have scheduled a joint meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 29, at 6 p.m. at the McSwain Center to discuss these matters. We encourage Chamber members to attend, especially those whose businesses may be affected by any changes in our current structure. If you cannot attend, call us and voice your opinion. We’ll make sure our elected officials hear what you think. The Chamber telephone number is (919) 775-7341.
Once again, we call on our elected officials to get together to hammer out new agreements, make adjustments where necessary but please keep in mind that service to our citizens and businesses is just as important, if not more so, than financial equity and control.
Bob Joyce is president of the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce.