MML #2 – Communities Explore Methods of Intergovernmental Cooperation
(Crystal A. Proxmire, March 13, 2018)
Frankenmuth, MI-  “There’s a tendency to think we’re in a box,” said Steve Mann of Miller Canfield as he addressed representatives from across the state as part of the Michigan Municipal League’s Elected Officials Academy.  Mann’s presentation encouraged councilmembers and commissioners to find ways to work beyond their municipal borders.
There are lots of ways that local governments can share services, including:
-emergency medical services
-building inspection and permitting
-parks and recreation
-vehicle towing and storage
-health services
-information technology
-waste and recycling
-public works
-geographic information
-animal control
-tax assessment
-fleet maintenance
There are laws that dictate how partnerships must form, and in particular how services are funded.  Mann said that it’s important to remember that “you can only do what’s authorized by law,” and that the Constitution and State Law supersede the local charter and ordinances.”  There are 77 State statutes that allow some form of intergovernmental cooperation.
Cooperation can be in the form of sharing resources, one community contracting services from another, joint public services, intergovernmental cooperation and consolidation.
Mann shared some examples.
Act 35 of 1951 allows for intergovernmental contracts in utilities, water, self-insurance plans, cable TV, transportation, police, fire and health services.  It allows a municipality to provide those services to other communities under contract.
Act 233 of 1955 is the Municipal Utility Act which lets communities have joint ownership of water and sewer systems.  It also establishes a utility board for such operations.  The Great Lakes Water Authority was formed using this act.
Act 33 of 1951 is the Police and Fire Protection Act that allows townships and cities with populations under 15,000 to jointly provide emergency services. Up to 22 municipalities are allowed to partner and can be funded with a special assessment, millage, or pay by call for service.
Act 57 of 1988 allows the provision of emergency services that include entire cities. This allows them to have taxing power or levy fees.  In 2015 Hazel Park and East Pointe created SMORSA (South Macomb Oakland Regional Services Authority) because they needed to raise money to cover legacy costs but the individual cities could not levy more taxes.  “The Authority went to voters and asked for the authority to levy 14 mils,” Mann said.
Act 7 of 1967 is the Urban Cooperation Act which allows for the creation of task forces and shared services where each municipality exercises their power jointly.  Examples include police and fire task forces where members from each community come together as a team.
Act 258 of 2011 is the Municipal Partnership Act which allows communities to contract to form a “joint endeavor.” This can involve asking for a millage for this purpose.  Examples include airport authorities, fire and emergency services authorities, rubbish and garbage disposal authorities, recycling authorities (like SOCRRA and RRRASOC), mass transit authorities (like SMART) and water, sewer and drain districts (like George W. Kuhn Drainage District).
Mann talked about the benefits of working together as well as the challenges.
Among the benefits are cost savings, reducing liability, consistency across municipal borders, building trust between communities and with residents and efficiently dealing with regional issues.
“A lot of the big barriers are trust and relationships,” he said.  The allocation of cost and the lack of incentive may also prevent partnerships that would make sense in terms of long term benefits, in spite of short term costs and effort.
“It’s difficult because we’re all human.  But it’s about the people in the community you represent,” Mann said.  “Check the egos at the door. Check the politics at the door.”
This article is the second in a series of articles about the MML weekend training.  If you aren’t already on our list for Daily Headlines, please sign up HERE so you won’t miss any of this exciting and informative series! Find other MML related articles HERE.
For more on Michigan Municipal League, check out their website at http://www.mml.org.
For more on Miller Canfield, visit https://www.millercanfield.com/