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Consolidation plan B on deck


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March 13, 2014
CITY OF GROSSE POINTE — An alternative strategy to reduce the cost of public safety is on deck.

Or, as the Gen X-ers say, "If plan A didn't work, the alphabet has 25 more letters. Stay cool."

Councilwoman Jean Weipert, of the City of Grosse Pointe council, was more succinct: "You have to have a Plan B."

The council has consensus to cut public safety costs despite an unsuccessful attempt in recent years to contract the service to Grosse Pointe Park, as happened last year with public safety dispatch.

"Whether we can work a deal with Grosse Pointe Farms or Park, I'm concerned with whatever is best for us as a city for both budgetary and public safety concerns," said Councilman Chris Walsh.

Likewise top administrators of the two Pointes on either side of the City.

"If we gain efficiencies and save money, and maintain staff or improve it, it makes sense," said Dale Krajniak, Park manager. "We must assure that foot patrols stay the same or go up."

"We'd be interested in hearing what they propose," said Shane Reeside, Farms manager. "We want what's best for Grosse Pointe Farms, but we also are interested in working cooperatively to do what is best for all the Grosse Pointes. The Farms would be opposed to any reduction in shift strength and officers on the road."

The economic pincer of reduced property tax revenue and increasing municipal employee heathcare costs have prompted years of cost reductions in the City.

"We've cut everywhere else more than we've cut public safety, but we've also cut public safety, so it ends up being a larger percentage of the budget after the financial crisis we've been through," said City Manager Peter Dame.

"Plan B would be looking at the (department's) internal structure, the organizational chart and equipment," said Councilman Christopher Boettcher.

He wants as much energy spent on the study as has been given to developing the central business district.

"Do we keep our autonomy and have our own police force in the city, or do we move forward with consolidation?" Boettcher said. "The people will ultimately decide which way we're going to go. But, we have to deliver the information to them so they can make an educated decision with us."

"As long as we can keep public safety costs in line longterm, it doesn't matter whether it's done through consolidation or cost reductions, such as legacy costs, which are the primary upward swing, or through increased revenue," Dame said.

Alternative funding options include issuing bonds to pay for public safety, as with road repairs.

"We will have to make a decision that we're either going to the people and ask them for more to keep the service they have, or we would go to them to say they want to be part of something else," Boettcher said.

Dame said he could complete a public safety cost analysis by April or May.

"If you believe we need additional revenue, and I'm leaning in that direction, could you offer possibilities of how we could do this — a bond?" asked Councilman John Stempfle.

"I could bring up options as part of the budget discussion," Dame answered.

Walsh isn't deterred about not reaching terms with the Park.

"I don't think the frustration we've faced on consolidation should hinder us as we go forward," he said.

"When you get into consolidation, if you don't have a willing partner, that's beating a dead horse," said Councilman Donald Parthum Jr.

Although the council agrees to seek lower costs, not every member prefers consolidation.

"I didn't expect unanimity either way on this," said Mayor Dale Scrace.

"We have other issues, such as deteriorating roads," Stempfle said.

"That will require additional funding," Dame said.

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