FLINT TWP. — There appear to be more opportunities for Flint Township to reduce operating costs internally than by combining services with Swartz Creek and Mundy Township, based on the results of a Municipal Shared Services Study presented at the township board meeting Monday night.
Mark Nottley of the Ann Arbor-based Municipal Consulting Services summarized highlights from the 125- page study results in a brief presentation Monday night to the Flint Township Board before leaving to make a similar presentation to the Swartz Creek City Council that night.
Nottley was hired in February by the three municipalities, each paying one third the cost of his $39,000 contract, to look for ways to share services to reduce costs. The six-month study probed four key departments – police, fire, building and assessing.
Some recommendations, if implemented in Flint Township, that could significantly lower operating costs included hiring part-time police officers to supplement the full-time staff, eliminating two full-time firefighter positions, outsourcing assessor’s services and possibly consolidating building operations.
Overall the study identified several impediments to combining police and fire departments but found greater potential for collaboration in the building and assessing departments.
Nottley said service demands in each community, modes of operation, costs variances and geography were key hurdles.
Using the analogy of a business merger, Nottley said “you will think twice before merging with a business that is not as cost effective.”
“We conclude that a shared service would not work,’’ Nottley said of a combined police force.
Flint Township’s police force being much larger and unionized poses problems for creating a shared police authority. A greater demand for services in Flint Township could overwhelm the two smaller departments, he said.
Shared police services only between Swartz Creek and Mundy Township is more feasible, Nottley reported
But he noted advantages of Flint Township eventually assuming police administration duties for Swartz Creek which could be phased out with the retirement of current personnel.
Both Mundy and Swartz Creek have part-time police officers. Flint Township could reduce its overtime cost by instead hiring more part-time officers, Nottley said. With the current police labor contract expiring at the end of next year, Nottley said he highly recommend making the part-time solution a primary collective bargaining objective.
Nottley said a shared fire authority could reduce Flint Township’s operational costs but there is no merger advantages for the other two municipalities.
Flint Township has a combination of full-time and paid on-call fire staff while the other two only have paid on-call firefighters.
Closing any of seven existing fire stations in the three municipalities could adversely affect response time.
Nottley recommended reducing that Flint Township full-time roster from 12 down to 10 for a savings of about $177,00. He noted two of the current full-timers currently are out on sick leave. He also recommended that the assistant fire chief be returned to shift duty and that on-call firefighters be used to fill staffing needs.
Nottley said the study did not find any serious impediments to combining building departments. All have similar codes, fees and contracts, he said. And Mundy Township offers a good foundation for this change.
“They have a full-time department and a very professional operation,” Nottley said. “The full-time nature of that department and some of the information technology improvements they have made are things that could benefit your operations,” he said.
His recommendations included upgrading to BS & A software which is specifically designed for government operations and implementing a periodic peer review of the building department director, Combined site plan reviews are also feasible, he said.
Streamlining assessing departments could range up to outsourcing all inhouse services except clerical, Nottley said. That could save Flint Township about $185,500.
Flint Township Supervisor Karyn Miller said after the meeting that study results are only recommendations at this point which the board will ponder moving forward.