By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
LINCOLN PARK – City Manager Matt Coppler announced at the June 17 City Council meeting that Lincoln Park plans to enter into a shared city assessor agreement with the city of Melvindale.
Coppler said the plan would be cost effective for both cities and would improve services for residents of Lincoln Park and Melvindale.
The Melvindale City Council went into closed session at its June 19 meeting, then approved the agreement, which will go back before the Lincoln Park City Council for a vote at a July meeting.
Coppler said they are still reviewing how costs will be assessed in future years.
“The administrator for Melvindale wants to see more of a straight increase for the last four years of the contract, rather than going back to the way I had this written, which was every year we adopt what that cost share is,” Coppler said. “So, I am guessing that this will be coming back to you July 1 or 15.”
Coppler said the proposed agreement addresses most of the issues involved with running a collaborative office.
“The city of Lincoln Park will be the primary office for the collaborative, so that will be the priority office, which will be staffed at all times,” Coppler said. “We are looking to the budget process, and will have two full-time people, with one of those individuals spending time in Melvindale.”
Coppler said one of the two assessment employees would spend a minimum of 24 hours per week at the Melvindale offices, unless the Lincoln Park assessor is on vacation or leave, in which case the Lincoln Park location will receive staffing priority. He said there are Melvindale city employees who would be able to fulfill resident needs at their location when the second assessor is staffing the Lincoln Park location.
Coppler said the assessor staff is working to determine the best way to have access to all of the Melvindale assessment records at the Lincoln Park office. He said they have plans to accomplish that within the existing office space.
“I think the bigger issue is being able to share those documents there at the same time,” Coppler said. “There is a question how that will all work out. That is where I am less optimistic that it will happen in the near term.”
Coppler said both offices will undergo significant modernization to be able to share the information electronically.
“At some point it won’t be an issue, but I don’t know in the short term how that will work out,” Coppler said.
He said in the future, a resident of either city could go to either city hall to get assessor information, which Coppler said is the level of service the cities hope to provide.
“A resident of Lincoln Park or Melvindale could go to either office,” Coppler said. “They could have an assessment question or service provided, and that is the greater goal.”
Coppler said officials from the state are encouraging other communities to make similar joint agreements.
“I think we are building the capacity to be able to offer a higher level of service,” Coppler said.
Coppler said the actual assessor will be employed by both Melvindale and Lincoln Park, then there will be an assessor tech and an assessor clerk, which could be working at the Melvindale location, and could provide a resident with records for either Melvindale or Lincoln Park. He said the same records service for both cities would eventually be available at the Lincoln Park assessor office as well. Records could be updated for both cities at each office location.
“The actual systems would be separate, but our (assessor) employees would be able to access our system and the Melvindale system,” he said. “But it will be done through the assessing department, not through a city of Melvindale employee.”
Coppler said that currently, Lincoln Park has an assessor and an assessor tech, and the city of Melvindale has an employee going through a training process, who will become a full-time Lincoln Park employee, who will serve as the assessing clerk, who has worked in the Melvindale assessing office.
“I don’t expect it to change a lot in the near term, but I think there will be some changes in the schedule later on, a couple years out,” Coppler said.
Melvindale city attorney Lawrence Coogan said Melvindale city officials, who went into private session and approved an assessor agreement at the body’s June 19 city council meeting, will discuss the agreement publicly once the Lincoln Park city council approves the agreement.
“Once (Lincoln Park) adopts the proposed contract, and agree to the terms and agreements that we presented, and if they adopt it, then it will become public,” Coogan said. “At this point it is negotiations. We approved the purported contract. It assumes the terms and conditions that the city (of Melvindale) wanted.”
Melvindale Mayor Stacy Bazman said the only changes residents will see is that there will be specific on-site hours posted for the assessor offices at both the Melvindale and Lincoln Park city halls.
“We will still have somebody at the window at all times, that will be able to answer assessing questions, to process taxes,” Bazman said. “It is a cost savings to us, by sharing the assessor with Lincoln Park. If they adopt it, we adopt it as well, so that pretty much wraps it up.”
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected])