WILLIAMSTON — In order to take advantage of professional services, a small town east of Lansing decided to contract for its community development and planning directors, according to the Williamston Enterprise. The city council has agreed to hire McKenna Associates Inc. to provide the services.

Officials expect the move to save money. Filling the positions directly would cost approximately $140,000. The contract calls for a base payment of $116,880 per year, the Enterprise reported.

The city’s neighboring township already has a contract with McKenna. "For us, it works out better because we could never afford an on-staff planner. They have so many resources they can tap into at their office for design and any type of ordinance from landscaping to cemeteries to ballparks and everything. It’s like having 20 people working for you, but you only pay for the one that’s here for the day," Williamston Township Supervisor Mickey Martin told the Enterprise.

If the city is dissatisfied with the contract, it can immediately terminate it, the Enterprise reported. Almost a half year into the contract, City Manager Lisa Hitchcock reports being very satisfied with the arrangement.

Many Michigan residents may not realize the degree to which such functions can be provided to units of government by for-profit enterprises. Zoning reviews, fire inspections and mechanical, plumbing and building code enforcement are all services provided under contract with units of government somewhere in the United States, if not in Michigan. For more on this subject, see the MPR article "Looking Over Private Inspections" at www.mackinac.org/3161.

Reference: Williamston Enterprise, "City hires firm for planning, development," July 1, 2007