September 26, 2013GROSSE POINTE PARK AND CITY — A joint operating agreement between these cities' public safety departments depends on prerequisites of the pair's bigger player:
No cuts in road officers, no increase in costs and no subsidizing its smaller partner in arms.
"For it to make sense for Grosse Pointe Park, it has to maintain or increase our street presence and reduce our costs," said Park Councilman Greg Theokas. "That's the bottom line."
Officials of the City of Grosse Pointe, which is half the Park's size, share the concern.
"There appears to be a lot of sentiment in both cities to keep the current number of people on the street about the same," said Peter Dame, City manager.
The staffing goal "complicates rightsizing a combined department based solely on workload demands," according to a feasibility study on consolidating City and Park police, fire and emergency medical operations.
The study, commissioned by both cities and reviewed by their councils last June, concluded that a unified department could cover both jurisdictions with six public safety officers per shift and a 20 percent cut in road patrolmen.
"That report was pretty handily dismissed," Theokas said. "We cannot lose street presence. We have to increase it, if anything."
He's unsure if the City can match the Park's efficiencies.
"It's not clear if we're going to take our efficient department and merge it with one that hasn't had as much rigor applied," Theokas said. "We don't want to spend our tax money on another city."
Representatives of both communities are meeting this fall to "review where we need to go on the public safety issue," said City Mayor Dale Scrace.
Recommendations are due in December, Scrace said.
"There's a lot of moving parts in this: four labor contracts, two pension funds, two EMS providers, authorities and legal issues," Scrace said.
"The key question is the level of staffing," Dame said. "I'll be working to come back with a proposal and see what savings would be in keeping the same number of people on the streets."
Full-blown consolidation is a tough sell, according to Theokas.
"If you limited consolidation to something along the administrative and investigative levels, you probably could do that," he said.
That's the gist in the City, too.
"PSOs and supervisors — our chiefs would be looking at those two categories from a practical standpoint of operating jointly," Scrace said.
The power center of combined administrations is likely to be at Park headquarters, according to Theokas.
"The Park is twice as big," he said.
Park Mayor Palmer Heenan is looking beyond a public safety merger.
"I want to merge the cities," he said. "The City is adjacent to us. They're struggling. I want to help them develop. I'm told the best way to accomplish amalgamation is to start with public safety."