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Ahee

Merger off the table




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May 22, 2014
CITY OF GROSSE POINTE — Contracting public safety duties to a neighboring community would save the city money, but cost it control of its police and fire services.

"I'm dead set against that," said Councilman John Stempfle. "We would lose total control of the police officers, which is 60 percent of our budget."

Similarly, representatives of "neighboring communities," meaning the Farms and Park, won't create a joint public safety authority to consolidate public safety departments, according to Stephen Poloni, City public safety director.

Hence:

"Consolidation is off the table," said City Mayor Dale Scrace. "Don't waste time talking about it."

Members of the city council agreed, although Councilman Chris Walsh predicted escalating public safety costs will force economies of scale through consolidation.

"Creation of a Grosse Pointe public safety authority has absolute merit," he said.

Until then, or a workable alternative is discovered, City officials will seek cost savings through increased sharing of fire services and equipment with sister municipalities.

"This remains one of the most viable options going forward," Poloni said.

Ladder trucks cost $1.3 million, he said. Full-size pumpers cost $500,000.

"Fire apparatus is the most expensive piece of equipment for any municipality," Poloni said. "So, the potential for savings, if all the (Pointes) are willing to work together, is there."

Firefighters in the five Pointes already support each other during emergencies through a longtime mutual aid agreement.

Yet, in response to a Southeast Michigan Council of Governments conclusion a few years ago that the Pointes have redundant fire-fighting assets, the cities increased cooperation by forming an intergovernmental fire committee.

"The committee instituted some recommendations that SEMCOG brought forward, such as automatic aid and purchasing ideas," Poloni said.

Scrace suggested revisiting SEMCOG's suggestion to reduce fire apparatus.

"We have three ladder trucks and eight or nine pumpers," Scrace said of the Pointes' combined fleet.

"When you layer that over the number of residents in the geographic area, we had enough equipment to maintain a department for a city two or three times as big."

"We need all five communities to buy into that," Poloni said. "Do we need three ladder trucks and five stations?"

"I'd like a deep dive on equipment," Scrace said. "It may not save a bundle of money today, but going forward, it's going to save a lot of capital costs."

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