As noted earlier, Gov. Granholm and several state think tanks and/or commissions have suggested the need to increase consolidation of service delivery at the local level. In order to promote the bipartisan calls for consolidation of some local units, and/or cost sharing, we would make several recommendations. The following recommendations are over and above the consolidation incentive fund discussed earlier. First, current law does not allow for counties to merge county road commissions into general county government, except for in the case of a county the size of Wayne. While there are great people running the county road commissions, the system may not make as much sense as it did in the early 20th century. At that time there was a need for an organization to build and maintain roads between urban areas, and the county governments were not financially strong enough to issue bonds. We would recommend that Act 51 be changed to permit counties to merge their road commissions into the operations of the rest of county government. This could eliminate extensive duplication between county public works departments and road commissions. Act 51 revisions may have to be made to allow for joint road and public works use of equipment, staff and other resources.
While the Constitution and Act 51 include extensive language allowing for joint activities and contracting between various units of government, we would also propose Act 51 be amended to make specific provisions allowing for contiguous county and city road organizations to form regional road agencies consisting of both county and city/village units. We would also recommend studying whether local units receiving very small annual allotments of MTF money (many receive well less than $150,000 per year) be required to contract with neighboring cities, or if there are no contiguous cites, contract with the county. Also, the regional authorities described above should be required to incorporate all road activities of local units that join, rather than allowing the regional authorities to operate as another level of government over and above existing agencies. Language providing for contracting of services between local road agencies should also be strengthened.
Again, while the county road commissions have excellent management and staff, it has become counterproductive in these budget times for road commissions to remain as autonomous as they are in many counties. A number of years ago the Attorney General ruled that county boards have no control over road commissions (AG 1957-1958 No. 2945). Act 51 should be amended to specifically change this opinion and allow county boards more control over the operations of road commissions.