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Shared services future propelled state grants

By Jason Alley, The News-Herald

PUBLISHED: March 8, 2006

Gov. Jennifer Granholm awarded $25,000 on Friday to four Downriver cities that are in the initial steps of forming a regional public services authority.


When completed, each community's public service department would respond to emergencies in any of the participating cities, as well as share services and equipment.

"By collaborating, communities can save citizens money and make their sources go further," Granholm said in a statement. "This program facilitates the sharing of services, agencies, equipment and employees to streamline government and save tax dollars."

Lincoln Park City Manager Steve Duchane came up with the proposal last year and pitched it to several neighboring communities. Allen Park, Trenton and Wyandotte signed on, forming the Public Services Mutual Aid Authority.

"There are some real leaders Downriver who realize that cities must begin looking at the best ways to service our residents," Duchane said. "The big point here is that we've started the thought process ... which, hopefully, will be a drawing card for more funding down the road."

The program is being mirrored after Downriver Mutual Aid, a public safety consortium that encompasses area police and fire departments. In the event of an emergency, participating communities agree to respond to help one another.

That pact, which operates under the umbrella of the Downriver Community Conference, has operated for years.

The DCC, which comprises 19 area communities, was the official recipient of the $25,000 "Center for Excellence" grant.

While the money, which will be given out over two years, is earmarked for just the four communities, other DCC member cities will be able to join the authority later and benefit from the grant.

"All municipalities are suffering from the same financial constraints of not being able to operate as we once did," Duchane said. "It seems logical that Downriver suburbs work together. ...

"If you put the 19 communities together, you have something like the second or third largest city in the state. That's certainly something that is manageable."

The Downriver public services consortium was one of seven agencies across the state that received $25,000 from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and the Michigan Department of Transportation. Thirty-five organizations applied for the money.

The designation is awarded through the Centers for Regional Excellence program, which Granholm created to encourage resource sharing and savings among local governments.

Joining the consortium was an easy decision for Allen Park Mayor Richard Huebler.

"We've got to look at all kinds of shared services," he said. "There are going to be other types of services we will have to share in the future. We can't continue to do business as we have in the past with the shrinking funding coming into the cities."

Besides this venture, Allen Park and Melvindale agreed Friday to join their city's Fire Departments.

"Every city has got to do something," Huebler said. "It can't be what it used to be. We must work smarter in getting the services to our public. There is no ending to what we can do. Imagination is the only handicap we have."

Contact Staff Writer Jason Alley at jalley@heritage.com or at 1-734-246-0867.

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