Two cities from opposite sides of the state are working together to come up with better ways to manage local governments.
Livonia and Grand Rapids are teaming up to find solutions to all kinds of common city management problems; like, what's the best practice for hiring city workers? What about for borrowing money? What’s the best accounting software for the price?
“In essence it could be anything necessary to run local government and best practices that we could easily share,” said Greg Sundstrom, Grand Rapids’ city manager.
The 15-year-long agreement (here on page 109 of Grand Rapids City Commission packet) between Livonia and Grand Rapids creates the Michigan Municipal Services Authority, which will tackle all kinds of administrative problems that cities face.
For example, Sundstrom says the city uses only a few software programs, but every 5 to 10 years they have to upgrade them. And it takes time to analyze which program works best for the price and then more time for everyone to adjust to the change.
"It's absurd," Sundstrom said. "If there’s a central state agency that can help vet out what is the best product, what includes the best practices and then we have an opportunity to just go use that software without this two year churning. I think it makes us more efficient, we’ll get a better product and hopefully we’re all going to save money here.”
Ultimately the authority’s solutions will be organized into a sort of “virtual city hall” that other cities could access. Michigan’s Department of Treasury hopes it’ll help local administrators run cities better.
“This is potentially a huge step toward governmental collaboration and consolidation. It’s not consolidating governing boards but if we can standardize management it’s got to better for everyone,” Sundstrom said.