The two municipalities are in the process of finalizing an agreement to share administrative assistant Mary Paparella, who has worked full-time in that capacity for the village for 14 years.
The township approved the move Monday night. Village Council will vote on the agreement at next Monday's meeting.
Current part-time Spring Lake Township receptionist Carolyn Zeeff, who has worked for the township for more than two decades, recently announced her retirement.
The two communities will share Paparella's time 50/50, with both municipalities responsible for half of her $42,000 salary and $20,000 benefits package. Each will pay $31,000 for her services annually.
“She has a very good way with people and is very pleasant,” Township Manager Gordon Gallagher said of Paparella, who has worked for the village for more than 13 years. “One of the things that has been a priority for the township is not to have an automated telephone service. We want a person to answer the phone.”
The two municipalities currently share a department of public works director, DPW staff, a zoning administrator, equipment, and for the last two years have shared office space at Spring Lake Village Hall.
“We see an opportunity to continue to work together and continue to provide good service,” Gallagher said. “We know there are a lot of times when we're not that busy that a reception can be handled by one person. During the times that we are busier, times like the last week of tax collection or the last week of water bills being due, we can move someone up to assist.”
Gallagher said most residents pay their bills electronically or through the mail.
“Ninety percent of our customers don't come into the office,” Gallagher said.
Village Manager Chris Burns called sharing a receptionist a “win” for both municipalities.
“If we are able to save money by sharing staff, what's not to like?” she said.
Each municipality will save about $31,000 with the move.
“The savings are significant,” Burns said.
And other communities are taking notice.
“The Spring Lake Township/Spring Lake Village collaborative efforts will be featured by the Michigan Municipal League in their May/June Review magazine,” Burns said. “While we tend to take collaboration for granted here in Northwest Ottawa County, it isn't as prevalent in other parts of the state. Spring Lake residents should know that they have some very conscientious elected officials who are doing what is right to save the taxpayers money.”
“I think both communities continue to be frugal and fiscally conservative, which helps to continue high levels of services without a need to increase tax rates,” Gallagher said. “I think it's a mindset on the part of the two communities to work together and find cost savings, especially when it's through attrition.”
Paparella will begin working for both communities next week after some internal training.
“I think Mary will do a nice job working with both of us,” Gallagher said. “She's so familiar with the work because we do the same things. We do the same things, only in different ways. I think it will allow us to look at things and see if there are more efficient ways we can both do them.”
Paparella said she's looking forward to her expanded role.
“It's something a little different, but it's similar to what I've been doing,” Paparella said. “I love the idea of shared services and I'm very excited about the new challenge. I've gotten to know a lot of village residents in my time here. This will allow me to work a little closer with my township family.”