The fun on the local level of government here in Fraser Michigan (FOUR SQUARE MILES ) is never-ending and luckily for all of our sakes, I’m here to observe and comment so we all can learn.
Where art thou “Sweet Metroite of Death?”
As I have written here before at the hallowed halls of Red State, I live in a small town that has some big-time government problems and issues. These generally revolve around money ( taxes), titles of people and who cares more about stuff that most people don’t care about.
Two years ago this month the city council had to make the hard choice of eliminating eight public safety positions ( out of a total of 37 ) and start the process of closing dispatch. This was done in response to a projected deficit due to a mixture of inefficient bookkeeping and legacy costs. Taxes had to be raised 9 mills by council after two failed public votes which were controversial.
This came to my mind this past weekend after reading and sharing a post about a leaf sucker that the city uses during the fall.
The city has its DPW workers go around in the fall with a machine that sucks up leaves that citizens rake to the curb. These leaves can sit for weeks and of course, before being “sucked up” will blow around the hood. However, this is a service that many here feel passionate about. I have spoken about this topic often, saying even if the city were in great shape you should be able to do what many other cities surrounding Fraser do which is to not use DPW hours to suck up leaves.
So novel, I know.
So I started to wonder what had been done in the two years since these cuts were made and taxes raised that would allow the city to still use a leaf sucker upper while we still have Public Saftey ( Which means each person is both a Cop, Firefighter and Medic) at a reduced force of around 29 or 30 sworn officers.
Do we value leaf pickup at the curb more than people who we need to occasionally be called for disputes or save lives?
As I was pondering this question, I was informed by a concerned citizen that I didn’t “realize” the past situation as I had thought I had.
I was obviously wrong, duh.
This, of course, as the righteously self-appointed Peoples Mayor was stunning to my ever so fragile persona. Here was the comment…
“You do realize out of those 8 officers we lost 4 were dispatch and we’re not properly reasoned to even be an patrol. We have since gotten 4 officers back and the interim Chief is asking for 2 more to transition from retirement.”
I was STUNNED that I could have gotten this so wrong. Here I was asking what I felt a perfectly legitimate question about what serves people value in this town. While my premise is still valid, possibly the impact would not be as great as I thought. If I let feelings rule my judgment I might have allowed that to shake me to my core.
Lucky for me I learned a bit ago that you always, in any discussion, let one thing happen…
Let Facts > Feelings and you will be fine.
So I went in search of some facts.
According to the Macomb Daily and reporter Mitch Hotts the city was aiming to eliminate 8 public safety positions and six dispatchers.
As a result, the administration is recommending a series of cutbacks that will be up for a vote tonight.
• Eliminating eight public safety officers and contracting with South East Regional Emergency Services Authority (SERESA) for dispatching services. The Roseville-based authority provides dispatching for Eastpointe, Roseville and St. Clair Shores
The Public Safety Department is expected to take the largest hit.
The department is budgeted for 37 sworn officers, but has been operating with 34 as three vacant positions were never filled. Five existing officers face being laid off effective Jan. 7.
Along with the manpower losses, the department has had to eliminate some functions such as the school liaison program and drug unit.
Director George Rouhib said the administration is studying how to best run the department with the remaining 29 officers. One likely method will be having officers go from eight-hour shifts to 24 hours.
‘It’s a done deal,’ Rouhib said earlier Thursday. ‘We’ve already handed out the layoff notices to the officers.’
Also, there are six dispatchers — five full time and one part time. If the council opts to contract with SERESA, the authority may hire three full-time dispatchers and one part-time.
This article, however, was written BEFORE the meeting, not after, so I needed to make sure that I was trending in the right direction. After contacting people who know this stuff inside and out I was directed to the Jan 11th, 2018 meeting where the minutes of the previous meeting are filed.
Here is what I found on page 55…
The motion to remove eight public safety officers and keep dispatch passed 5-1. Dispatch would not be cut until June of 2018 which was six months later.
So back to my original question.
When a town takes a hit as Fraser did in Dec 2017, what are the priorities moving forward? Do you plan on replacing any of the PSO let go? Do you do an actual review of what services you provide and IF you should provide them?
When I talked to all three of the council people who were running this past Oct ( the fourth one is still running from me ) one of the things I said I wanted to see was getting this city in shape for the next financial downturn. The last one happened in Sept 2008 which now means we are eleven years from that and we can expect some type of downturn in the next four or five years, possibly sooner. Hopefully, it won’t be as bad as the last one but preparations should be well underway.
Will this city be prepared?
If people are more interested in a leaf sucker and CHIRSTmas lights at the city hall and don’t ask some serious questions of our elected officials, I’m pretty sure we won’t be ready.
That possibility would be the thing that truly sucks.