By Troy Alim
Budget Director and Co-Chair of the NCCP Leadership Committee
Forest Preserves of Cook County
The Next Century Conservation Plan (NCCP) states, “Visionary conservation leaders will safeguard, expand and bring increased resources to the Forest Preserves.” Indeed, to fully restore the forest preserves more resources will be needed, but first we must show that we are using existing resources efficiently and effectively. On-going reforms have greatly improved operational efficiency at the Forest Preserves of Cook County; we are on the right track and continue to move forward.
FPCC has been reexamining many aspects of its operations to identify ways to maximize efficiencies by freeing up resources as well as raising additional revenues. The thinking is that no consideration is too big or small. Even ideas that recoup small savings initially can ultimately contribute greatly over the course of the next 25 years of implementation of the NCCP. We are currently assessing 42 initiatives which offer potential to raise revenues or reduce costs.
Over the past three years, the FPCC has looked to save money and “go green” with energy and utilities savings by converting gas-powered vehicles and equipment to propane power, and a similar idea has been expanded to review telephone usage. For example, some staff may spend a significant amount of their time in the field and are assigned both an office phone and a mobile phone. In cases where service delivery won’t be impacted, those staff will be choosing which communication device best assists in the performance of their job and the other will be eliminated.
This year, the Forest Preserves is installing its first Pay & Display parking system for non-Forest Preserves patrons who park in FPCC parking lots while not partaking in Forest Preserve programs or services, but are doing other things such as working in nearby facilities and businesses.
One such proposal that seeks to enhance a little-used revenue stream is expanding the selling of surplus goods. Currently, the FPCC sells scrap metal from vehicles that have been taken out of our active fleet on eBay. One current proposal looks to expand this program by partnering with the larger Cook County government or other websites to auction or sell all surplus items, from desks and file cabinets to chairs, fax machines and any other pieces of equipment that is no longer in use that a member of the general public might find useful for their own purposes.
To successfully implement NCCP, we must continue to look at all possible avenues to both reduce costs and raise revenues.