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Service Centre 4 Suns

From Municipal Cooperation

Service Centre 4 Suns
Service Areas: Administrative Services and Tasks
Country: Austria
Municipalities: Aspach, Höhnhart, Rossbach, Sankt Veit im Innkreis
Contact persons: Erich Priewasser
Legal form: Territorial public law entity
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Coordinates: 48° 10' 49" N, 13° 16' 47" E
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Description of the problem/need for IMC

The municipalities of Aspach, Höhnhart, Rossbach and St. Veit im Innkreis lie on the edge of the Kobernausser Forest, in the Braunau district in Upper Austria. Good road links make it easy to reach the district’s two towns, Braunau and Ried. This is also true of Germany right next door, which is within easy reach due to the Innkreis motorway. The economies of all four municipalities are rural throughout, with a strong trend towards both soft tourism and health tourism.

For the sake of enhancing efficiency, saving money as well as for functional considerations and with the support of the State of Upper Austria, the Innviertel municipalities of Aspach, Höhnhart, Rossbach and St. Veit im Innkreis decided to look into the possibility of putting together their municipal maintenance yards and actually doing so, if feasible.


Description of the IMC practice

The "Dienstleistungszentrum Vier-Sonnen“ (Service Centre 4 Suns) project was analysed primarily in the light of economic, organisational and HR considerations and long-term policy statements concerning operation, maintenance, investment and reinvestment were formulated. Conclusions were drawn and quantifiable cost savings were identified jointly on the premise of providing consistent high-quality services to the residents of the municipalities. More specifically, the total savings to be achieved by creating a joint municipal maintenance yard are, at a conservative estimate, around € 1,450,000. Questions regarding the possible legal form, optimal cost-effective funding and questions regarding the possible allocation of costs for such a "Dienstleistungszentrum 4 Sonnen" service centre were answered in similar detail, partly by external experts.

The objectives of the project were:

  • to ensure maximum usage of vehicles, machinery and equipment
  • to optimize deployment of staff
  • to reduce costs while improving performance
  • professional municipal maintenance yard management

These objectives were pursued while taking into account all the interests of the municipalities and the incorporation of management and investment processes.

Establishment of the IMC practice

The cooperation project was set up under the name "Dienstleistungszentrum 4 Sonnen" in the centrally located Aspach/Höhnhart business development area. It was implemented very rapidly, with barely one and a half years elapsing from design to commissioning, as demonstrated by the following timeline:

  • June 2004 -- Project start, initial draft plan
  • August 2004 -- Presentation of final plan
  • September 2004 -- Approval of the project by provincial government of Upper Austria and commitment to provide start-up assistance
  • October 2004 -- Approval decisions carried in the municipal councils of the four cooperating municipalities
  • November 2004 -- Start of construction planning
  • June 2005 -- Start of construction
  • November 2005 – “Dienstleistungszentrum 4 Sonnen” begins to operate

Funding

PPP model, € 1.98 million, 80% of which comes from start-up funds of the State of Upper Austria

Current Status

The service centre – with its lean staffing comprising just seven employees – began operating in November 2005 in the commercial district of Aspach / Höhnhart and has met all the initial expectations. For the approx. 5,000 residents of the municipality, savings have meant no loss of service quality -- in fact, quite the opposite. The basic working assumption for the municipal cooperation project is that it is a partnership of equals -- regardless of how small or large a particular municipality is. The parties all agreed in advance on the details of how to distribute costs equitably. Even so, it is still necessary to ask constantly whether the original assumptions made are actually borne out in day-to-day practice. Joint construction and operation of "Dienstleistungszentrums 4 Sonnen", instead of running four separate municipal maintenance yards: this translates into significant savings in terms of space, maintenance and operating costs. In addition, all machines used have been optimised, improved and, if found to be uneconomic, disposed of.

Benefits and shortcoming of the IMC practice

Concentrating services in one location makes for a higher degree of specialisation among the staff deployed and improves round-the-clock services, such as for the clearing of roads in winter. It also ensures a greater impact in case of damage; e.g. with heavy rain. Staff collaboration means that a smaller municipality can afford a joint municipal maintenance yard manager, whose job it is to coordinate the construction projects of all four municipalities - a great relief for the administration. This leads to greater consistency in road maintenance, which previously would have been impossible on such a scale. By joining forces, more became affordable for the municipalities than each could afford on their own.

  • 43% reduction of yard area: 2,057 sq. m. reduced to 1,300 sq. m.
  • Cost savings under the motto "Make one out of four": 1.4 million euros
  • 140,000 euros in cost savings per year, e.g. through cuts in operating costs and through staff collaboration
  • Vehicle pool: Two tractors with winter equipment, one Hoftrac, three vans, one verge mower and a number of small appliances for maintaining roads and green spaces

Strengths

Generally, opting for the solution of combining the municipal maintenance yards of all four municipalities into a joint service centre and in so doing providing municipal maintenance functions on an inter-municipal basis has proved worthwhile. Most of the benefits and synergy effects have been felt already during the short time that the service centre has been in existence and are currently being put to intensive use by the municipalities.

  • A clear increase in service output due to improvements in terms of both quality and quantity
  • A consistent standard for maintenance yards services across all four collaborating municipalities
  • Reliable and regular performance of permanent tasks
  • Excellent winter services
  • Generally, enhanced impact, particularly in emergency situations
  • Significant savings in vehicle fleet investments
  • Improved capacity usage of modern machines and equipment
  • Optimised deployment of staff, also through the use of larger teams and professional specialisation
  • Improved efficiency - with the same or slightly reduced use of resources (no increase in staff, vehicle fleet reduced), more services provided
  • Higher level of cost awareness
  • Benefits from the necessary introduction of maintenance yard management, such as systematic planning of maintenance yard tasks, a reliable job allocation system and noticeable relief for the municipal administrations

Weaknesses

Even if considerably outweighed by the benefits of this cooperation project, there have also been some adverse effects. Optimising the planning and performance of work from an efficiency standpoint entails some loss of flexibility Thus, it is no longer possible for the service centre to respond to requests for small-scale, rapid assistance, for instance. Electronic job allocation reduces direct communication between customers and contractors. More long-term issues have also emerged mainly because the project was associated with far-reaching organisational change, which impeded the overall integration of staff and thereby hampered the creation of a unified and efficient team. Both the municipalities and the service centre staff are aware of these difficulties and are working actively to improve the situation

Future plans for the development of the IMC practice

The successful implementation of the “Dienstleistungszentrum 4 Sonnen” project has created a basis for further joint cooperation projects. Above all, the good contacts between the mayors of the municipalities, but also between the senior officers, have induced the four municipalities to continue working together in various, partly different, constellations. As a result, other corporation projects have seen the light of day:

  • Joint waste material collection centre for all four municipalities
  • Meals on wheels for all four municipalities
  • A joint Aspach‐Höhnhart commercial district
  • Administrative cooperation
  • A joint computer server

Main lessons learned on how to establish IMC and make it a success

The goal of upgrading performance standards through this cooperation project has been achieved. The introduction of a consistent performance standard can be cited as the most significant benefit in this context. This has ensured that the same services are offered to the same level of quality in each of the four collaborating municipalities. Carrying out tasks across several municipalities has ensure that the vehicle fleet capacity is used more efficiently. Outsourcing the maintenance yard from the municipal administrations, their organisational integration into the service centre and the associated consistent management and operational restructuring have succeeded, above all, in relieving senior municipal officers of the burden of having to deal with maintenance yard matters. Implementation of the cooperation project has also had some advantages for the service centre’s staff themselves. The existence of a larger team makes it easier to manage both staff substitutes and on call duty and thus to relieve the service centre’s staff.

Readiness to support other municipalities to establish IMC

Please contact the project partners for further information.