- Published: 04 February 2013
Between Flint and the county, five grant applications for funding shared service proposals have been submitted to the state of Michigan for cooperative efforts such as purchasing, human resources and an eventual merger of Flint and Genesee County's 911 communications systems.
All told, the grant requests add up to about $3.6 million in potential revenue shared between the two entities.
A few of the efforts are led by the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce, which was nominated to be a "neutral convener" for shared service proposals.
"It's a win-win for everybody," said Jamie Curtis, chairman of the Genesee County Board of Commissioners. "It helps to neutralize the fears or perception that Big Brother is out to swallow local government and take over. We don't want to do that, but we want to be the best of the best. In order to do that, we have to share services."
Are these grant proposals the first steps toward future consolidation of city and county services?
Flint City Administrator Michael Brown stressed that the grant proposals are for partnering, not consolidating, and said talks of any mergers -- except when it comes to 911 services -- would be premature.
"It would be much too early to talk about (consolidation) at this point," he said. "You take the small steps first."
The shared service proposals were born out of a 2011 directive from Gov. Rick Snyder that Michigan communities must show they're willing to share services and be more efficient in order to get a piece of the state revenue-sharing pie. Snyder dubbed them "best practices."
After Snyder's mandate, Brown, who was leading the Flint Area Reinvestment Office at the time, teamed up with former Lt. Gov. John D. Cherry Jr. to lead a study called "Future Genesee" that identified potential areas of cooperation and consolidation. No public funding was used for the study, officials said at the time.
Many of these current shared service proposals came out of that "Future Genesee" study, said George Wilkinson, director of shared services for the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The state will decide whether to award the grants to the communities.
"The main focus is to create efficiency," Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson's job at the chamber is to identify the opportunities for governmental units to share services, and then work with communities to make it happen.
"None of the (governmental) units really had time to spend on making these things happen," Brown said. "It's not easy. There's turf issues, control issues, political issues.
"Just to have someone convening folks around the table... (the chamber is) a neutral party to initiate it."
Here's a look at some of the shared service grant proposals, as described by Brown:
Human resources -- $300,000
Based on a model already in place at the Genesee Intermediate School District, the proposal is for the county, city and other interested municipalities to cut costs by partnering on recruitment, hiring and human resources management, Brown said.
There would be a focus on using technology and the web, he said. About a dozen school districts have partnered with the GISD using the model, he said.
911 communications -- $2,135,000
The funding would add another communications tower and supporting equipment to the existing Genesee County 911 Consortium system. The project is a "step in the preparation toward system merger" between the city and county, according to the grant application.
The city has already linked to the 800 MHz emergency radio system used by the county consortium.
"This would be a second major step," Brown said of a new tower. "If you have both of these things done, then we could have serious discussions (about consolidation)."
Purchasing -- $648,000
The county, city, GISD and other communities would plan and develop a regional purchasing collaborative, he said.
The entities would be able to jointly purchase goods and service for better economies of scale, he said.
The last two grant proposals evolved out of the local criminal justice advisory council.
A $46,000 grant would go toward a fiber connection that "would enhance the speed and the ability of different units to improve communications," he said.
Another $500,000 grant would streamline information technology and software among all the courts, law enforcement agencies and the prosecutor's office, allowing them to communicate more easily and file reports more efficiently.
Autor(en)/Author(s): Kristin Longley
Quelle/Source: MLive, 04.02.2013