Village Manager Chris Burns and Township Manager Gordon Gallagher said they expect the sharing of public works employees to be fairly even-up. When the village is in need of extra help, such as after heavy snowfalls, township DPW workers may chip in to assist. And when the township DPW staff is loaded down with work, village employees could lend a hand.
Village employees will remain village employees and township employees will remain township employees with the pact. The departments are not merging.
“We're looking at ways we can work together under a shared leadership (shared Public Works Director John Stuparits), but not anything that would misplace their identities,” Gallagher said. “We're still going to have a Spring Lake Township DPW and a Village of Spring Lake DPW. It's just an opportunity to share some staff when needed.”
Gallagher provided an example: The township gets busy with hydrant flushing. The village gets busy prepping for its annual Heritage Festival.
“It might be nice to have a couple of extra bodies,” he said. “With John Stuparits at the helm, he sees on a daily basis the workloads. If he determines there's a need either because of vacation schedules or a project, a need for an additional person to shift from one to the other for a day, he would assign them in that way.”
On a monthly or quarterly basis, the muncipalities will add up the hours shared.
“Our hope really is (that) it will be an even exchange so we can provide some assistance when assistance is needed,” Gallagher said.
If the shared hours are not even, one municipality will reimburse the other on an hourly basis, based on actual staff time and pay.
“It will give all of our combined staff an opportunity to learn more about each other and to learn additional things about the utilities they provide,” Gallagher said. “We think there's benefit to be had for both organizations. We see it as an opportunity for improved collaboration and better service.”
Burns said the two municipalities are always exploring ways to collaborate and save taxpayer dollars. Besides Stuparits, they also share Planning and Zoning Administrator Lukas Hill, DPW equipment and office space, and the township has been leasing space at Village Hall since September 2015.
“We started talking about (sharing DPW staff) shortly after the township moved in here,” Burns said. “We're always looking for things we can do more efficiently that's cost-effective to try to save the taxpayers' money.”
Burns said there weren't many municipal models to follow when they first started exploring the idea.
“It's really groundbreaking,” she said. “It's exciting to think this might make both teams a little more efficient if there are some cost savings involved. We're kind of feeling our way through it. There may be some bumps along the way, but we'll get through them.”
Burns said the sharing of equipment is working well and sharing DPW staff seemed like the next logical step. Instead of both municipalities buying duplicate equipment, they can share and pay the other a standard rental rate that the state provides.
“We think it makes perfect sense,” Burns said. “We started small with a few pieces of equipment, but will probably expand. It works out great for both of us.”