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Thinking outside the map
Viewpoints column by local government administrators about shared governmental services (Regionalism).

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Date published: 8/19/2012

TODAY is National Aviation Day, which commemorates the birth of Orville Wright, who was born in 1871. Orville and his brother, Wilbur, invented the first successful airplane, which allowed human beings to travel beyond their geographical boundaries in a way that, before its invention, took place only in dreams.

The boundaries of local governments in Virginia were largely settled in the 18th and 19th centuries, in a different world with much less mobility than the one in which we live today. In the highly connected world of the 21st century, many of the programs and services provided by local government address issues that are regional in nature. Crime, transportation, economic development, emergency operations, environmental protection, and many other issues cross jurisdictional boundaries and challenge the local governments charged with addressing them.

Fortunately, the Rappahannock community has a long history of cooperation, innovation, and creativity, and flying beyond our "nests" is more the norm than the exception. From George Washington to Doris Buffett, our region has been home to people who have viewed the world from a slightly different perspective than most others, always seeing its possibilities, instead of its boundaries. This visionary approach is evident in our local governments today, especially when it comes to meeting our service challenges regionally.

Many of our residents may not be aware of the large extent to which important local government services in our area are provided on a regional basis. A recent inventory of our regional efforts revealed that there are at least 37 initiatives underway today. Many involve the city of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania, Caroline, and King George counties, as well as numerous localities in central and Northern Virginia.

Services that require large capital investments are often good candidates for regional provision because of the savings that can be achieved through economies of scale. This is particularly true if the need for public access is limited, which mitigates the loss of convenience to the general public of having one large facility rather than many smaller ones. For example, the Rappahannock Regional Jail and the Rappahannock Juvenile Center provide secure detention facilities for convicted criminals and those awaiting trial for our region.

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Anthony Romanello is county administrator of Stafford County, Beverly Cameron is city manager of Fredericksburg, and Douglas Barnes is county administrator of Spotsylvania County.