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Michigan Communities Sharing Services and Cost Savings Include Saline, Northville, Keego Harbor, Bellevue, Alpena County, Ironwood
Compiled by Kim Cekola
In 2005, Governor Granholm stated that local governments needed to combine services to save money. Since they had been sharing a variety of services for a long time, many local government officials were outraged. This issue has resurfaced in the press—stories on proposed fire consolidation, police consolidation, and 911 Emergency services consolidation have been carried in news outlets across the state. In fact, current examples of intergovernmental cooperation are too numerous (and possibly unknown, since local governments are made up of hard-working but modest people) to list. Below are examples of current shared service arrangements, explorations of consolidation, and examples of cost savings.
Combined Purchasing Power
Saline collaborated with the Saline Area School Board to share the costs of purchasing and storing road salt for use on city streets and school properties. Purchasing in higher quantities resulted in lower per unit costs and a shared storage facility meant lower total facility costs between the city and the school board.
Personnel Cost Savings
Northville and Plymouth share the use of a single building official. Technically employed by Plymouth, the building official’s time is divided and reimbursed on an hourly basis by Northville. This arrangement allows each city the opportunity to employ an additional building official, while having a portion (close to 50 percent) of the employment costs covered by the other city.
The city of Luna Pier contracts with Erie Township for building inspection services. The inspector works in Erie Township four days a week and spends one day a week in Luna Pier (but can be called by either community for a specific job). Luna Pier pays 25 percent of the building inspector’s salary.
Hazel Park and Ferndale share an animal control service. Before 2006, each city had its own officers, but when one retired both communities determined that their combined populations only required one officer. They split the costs of the services 50/50, therefore spending half of what they did to have their own animal control units.
Wixom started an innovative cost saving initiative—the Compressed Work Week. The program consists of a four-day workweek, Monday through Thursday from 7:15 am to 5:30 pm, where employees work 9.375 hours excluding lunch. Police road patrol, fire/rescue, the library and Department of Public Works road maintenance operations are not affected. Overall access to city hall services remains the same; however, time is redistributed resulting in extended hours Monday through Thursday with the closing of non-emergency service operations on Fridays. After a 12-month cost review and performance tracking, the city saved $48,337, and continues to receive positive comments from the public and employees regarding the many benefits of this program.
The assumption of fire and EMS protection for the Tri-Cities of Keego Harbor, Orchard Lake, and Sylvan Lake, by the West Bloomfield Fire department benefited all communities involved. The Tri-Cities were able to upgrade their fire department from a paid-on-call, basic life support agency to a full-time, advanced life support system at an affordable cost. West Bloomfield was able to reduce response times to the north-east portion of the township years ahead of schedule, without incurring the costs of building a station and purchasing the apparatus and furnishings.
In June 2008, the village of Wolverine Lake and the city of Walled Lake formalized a long-standing commitment to cooperation by signing the Walled Lake & Wolverine Lake Police Shared Services Agreement. Merging their police departments enabled the municipalities to decrease duplication of service, increase efficiency, streamline operations, strengthen investigative capacity, augment training and equipment, enhance programs including drug education and awareness, and provide a more visible presence in the community as a whole.
Joint Planning Commissions
Bellevue and Bellevue Township became the first units of government in the state to form a joint planning commission. The rationale behind the partnership was to protect and enhance the economic condition of the village as the center of trade and commerce, and to protect the agricultural properties in the township.
The following municipalities have also been pioneers in the area of joint planning, with joint master plans, joint planning commissions or joint zoning ordinances:
An Intergovernmental Council
Alpena County, the city of Alpena and all the townships in the county formed the Alpena Intergovernmental Council (AIGC) in 1997. Members have been meeting on a quarterly basis to discuss planning, land use, public works, communications, roads and recreation activities, and other topics of mutual concern within the county. Still going strong after more than a decade, current projects include: a major recycling effort; an annual county-wide clean-up; support for joint economic development initiatives; a broadband consortium; mutual aide agreements for police and fire; and committees addressing roads, air/water quality and public safety. Recently the tri-county landfill authority defunded recycling—so, AlGC members joined together and developed a per capita funding formula accepted by the city and townships that is keeping recycling and the local transfer station alive while other options for future funding are being sought. The levels of trust, mutual respect and friendship among units of government in Alpena County are perhaps the greatest achievements of the council and will continue to provide a framework for the cooperation necessary to right-size government.
Consolidation of Governmental Units
In a monumental undertaking in 2000, the cities of Iron River and Stambaugh combined with the village of Mineral Hills to form the first consolidated city in Michigan. It’s hard to imagine the obstacles that were overcome for this to happen, which is quite possibly why there have been no others since. The desire to consolidate governments has not disappeared—in 2006, there was a citizen-initiated effort to consolidate the city of Grand Blanc and Grand Blanc Township into one governmental unit. This effort failed. Currently, there are two areas exploring the feasibility of consolidating governmental units—the city of Saugatuck and Saugatuck Township in southwest Michigan, and the city of Davison and Davison Township in mid-Michigan.
Consolidating governmental units, sharing services, or combining purchasing power to get better prices on goods will not solve local governments’ deep-rooted fiscal problems. On the other hand, when state revenue sharing is consistently reduced, when unemployment is high and home foreclosure is prevalent, and local governments must continue to cut, cut, cut, then the idea of sharing services at a reduced price looks promising. Think about the programs the municipalities here have implemented, and be proud to be a part of local government in Michigan.
Summaries in this article were drawn from the Land Information Access Association and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.