Grand Traverse County is trying to change the way they do business, making it more efficient and easier for residents to access.
Local government offices and departments are scattered across half a dozen locations throughout Grand Traverse County. But leaders say it’s time for that to change.
County Administrator Nate Alger says they’re considering bringing in a consultant to draft recommendations. “We don’t exactly know what that end report will say, but we will be giving guidance with best practices and latest standards from Tower Pinkster. Where should we have certain departments and elected officials and who should be sitting next to them to provide the best services?”
Government offices for Grand Traverse County are spread out.
“We have the main campus here at Boardman. We have the Law Enforcement Center on Woodmere. We have the Civic Center. We have 520 West Front Street - the Commission on Aging,” he says. “In addition to that, we have the DPW and Health Department up on LaFranier. The DPW shop is somewhere else.”
That’s a lot of properties and facilities to manage, and a lot of different locations for citizens to travel when they need services. That’s why they’re looking for consultation from a group named Tower Pinkster.
“What department sits next to which department to function best and provide the best services to the county? How many different spots around the county do we have with offices now? Right now we’re scattered throughout the county,” Alger says. “The goal here is to have an organic experience with a consultant to say, how do we best provide the services to the service recipients, the citizens in our county, and how do we do it reasonably and financially sound?”
It may not mean bringing all of the services under one roof – but certainly in fewer spots than they have now. One point of discussion will be the location of the prosecutor’s office and the jail in relation to the courts.
“It’s unlikely that we will be able to put all of our facilities on one campus. The relationships we have with the courts, the certainly the historic courthouse in the Hall of Justice houses our 86th District and our 13th Circuit Courts in the city and Traverse city on this campus. It’s unlikely that those courts will be moved. The prosecutor’s office is also on this campus,” Alger says. It could lead to talks of a new jail. “The discussion with the jail is going to be probably one of the main discussions that the county has to consider. The juvenile detention center that will be a part of this discussion. And again, it’s we don’t have a preset determined outcome. We want the outcome to be organic and consultant driven.”
Alger adds, “the first phase of this relationship is going to be the discussion phase. The consultants are going to come in and talk to our departments, talk to our elected officials and see what they’re experiencing and what they feel they need.”
Any decision to consolidate, or relocate, could have an impact on the City of Traverse City as well – since they share the Governmental Center.
“We have enjoyed a long standing relationship with the City of Traverse City, not only in this building, but also at 520 West Front Street and the LEC (Law Enforcement Center). We partner in a lot of ways and we’ve partnered to go through this consultant process as well,” Alger says. “We have worked with the City of Traverse City on a timeline, and we wanted to give our board, the city management wanted to give the city council or commission a heads up on where we are with Tower Pinkster.”
City Clerk Benjamin Marentette says it will be an interesting process. “We have a number of buildings that we share. And I think at this point we’re really going to wait and see what that report comes back with in terms of recommendations and things to consider. And then, of course, it’s a much bigger discussion after that,” he says. “This could result in some changes. Again, it really just depends on the findings and the analysis that comes back. And there is a number of factors that weigh into where we locate different operations and those types of things, and what the shared expenses are and how that expense share would look.”
It’s not the first time for a discussion like this. They’ve been having these talks on and off for at least 20 years. But the county is ready to get into the game, and it could be a long process. “This is not a new idea for us. This is something that the county has considered for decades, and we’ve just never had the opportunity that we have right now to actually make headway on that thought. So we’re looking forward to it and are excited to be a part of it,” Alger says. “Basically we just took the field in a seven inning game. And the proposal Tower Pinkster gave us outline of a four phase project that will take us from where we are today to creating a final report sometime at the end of this year that will show the commissioners that this is where we think the county should take their facilities.”
County Commissioners are expecting to vote on whether to move forward with the plan at another commission meeting later this month.
Alger says, “We will be going back to our Board of Commissioners on February 15th and ask for approval of the engagement. And then the end analysis when we’re all said and done throughout the course of this next year, we are going to have a report that shows to us all of the efficiencies that can be gained by putting departments in certain spaces. And ultimately that will end up in a bond initiative for a new-build and any renovations that have to occur with our existing facilities.”