Employment & Training Merging (question answered?)

In June 98, the County Board (see RRR June/July/Aug 1998) approved the formation of a committee to discuss the "potential" to merge City of St. Paul and county work and training programs. On April 6, the Board discussed the Policy Working Board (PWB) recommendation to merge the city and county Job Training Departments. So to merge or not to merge has been answered? Almost. Connie Peikert, Director of Policy and Planning Analysis, went through the proposed recommendations and organizational structure. The city and county would write a Joint Powers Agreement setting up a Joint Powers Board (JPB) and Workforce Investment Board (WIB). Through this partnership, Ramsey County Board would become the Grant Recipient, Fiscal Agent and Operational Governance with the WIB. Commissioner Wiessner commended the policy group for their hard work and for their completion of a monumental task; i.e., a merge plan of city and county workforce councils and programs. Commissioner Wiessner said, "I would describe this still as the engagement period and the actual wedding will not take place until July 2000." To make this all work and to meet the requirements of the Act (Workforce Investment Act), the policy group recommended that the governance body be made up of local elected officials, three City Councilmembers, and three County Board members. With the city proper having 50% (3 Council members) representation, the County Workforce Council suggested that the three Board members be from the suburb districts. Commissioners Haigh and Guerin spoke against that suggestion. Haigh stated that all Commissioners are interested in the mission of the entire county as a whole. Guerin believed that the Chair ought to have the say on makeup of the JPB. Janice is not that concerned about this issue and is okay with the recommendation because of balance that is perceived. Peikert stated that the Workforce Council voted separately on governance so that it would not hold up the merging process. "Perhaps this issue should be brought back to the group for further discussion," Peikert said. Janice's questions were about cost savings and more dollars. "The document references accessing new dollars. Where would those dollars come from?" Commissioner Wiessner responded, "the PWB believed that foundation grants would be one opportunity. By incorporating a broader vision focusing on employers and job seekers as two customers, there may be resources from employers that could be accessed." Peikert saw available dollar savings by eliminating duplication. By merging, it is hoped that there would be more resources dedicated to seeking out additional funding sources. Janice asked, "Will vendor selection be through the Request for Proposal process (RFP); and how will the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) affect the merger?" Peikert responded that the RFP process will be adhered to. Ginee Engberg, Co-director, Ramsey County Job Training, said "the regulations are still in the development stage and that any impact is not known at this time." And Janice, "What is the national trend?" (Merge of workforce programs.) Engberg commented, "my opinion is a trend toward regionalization." WIA allows for continuance of successful, existing work programs by grandfathering them in. The question becomes building a viable, cost effective, regional workforce project. Answers may be up to a year away.

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