No plan yet on police, fire outsourcing

By ANDREA POTEET
Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – With just days before the June 30 end of the fiscal year, councilors Tuesday still had no answers on how to facilitate a planned outsourcing of their Police and Fire departments to another city.

Mayor William Matakas told the crowd no layoffs were planned or had been discussed for the two departments and that they would continue to be paid from the city’s general fund, which faces a $6 million shortfall for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which began today.

May 22 councilors passed a $15 million budget that allotted a total of $3.9 million for budgets for police and fire “contractual services,” with an explanation that they would seek offers from neighboring communities to run the departments from Allen Park facilities. The budgets of both departments were $10 million last fiscal year. Before former City Administrator John Zech stepped down, he told councilors that if none of the six neighboring cities to which requests were sent accepted, they would have to “keep trying” until the end of the fiscal year to overcome the shortfall.

But though no movement has yet been made on the plan, councilors looked elsewhere to amp up security in the city. They also Tuesday passed a resolution to authorize the establishment of an auxiliary police force.

The move came after hearing a presentation from Southeastern Michigan Council of Reserve and Auxiliary Officers in January.

SEMCORA Chief Financial Officer Justin Mardarski explained at the January meeting his armed volunteer force earns no compensation and members pay certification fees to join. The council were then to direct the Public Safety Commission to review it, a step councilors say was not taken.

The resolution did not stipulate whether Allen Park would use SEMCORA’s services or create their own auxiliary force, and Interim City Administrator Dave Boomer did not return phone calls seeking comment by press time.

Tuesday’s resolution came with stipulations that the commission review it and it require resident input, but be implemented “as soon as possible.”

The resolution, read at the meeting by Councilman Angelo DeGiulio, cited the establishment of the auxiliary as “one more tool for the Police Department to “decrease expensive overtime” and “ensure the highest level of security and safety.”

As with the January visit, residents had numerous concerns about auxiliary officers, including that SEMCORA officers carry weapons.

Allen Park Police Officer Wayne Allbright expressed concerns that the volunteers would carry guns other than those approved for police officers.

“I haven’t checked into our city’s insurance policy, but I do believe they would have something to say about that,” Allbright said. “That anyone can bring in any type of gun, like the Wild Wild West and carry anything they want?”

Mardarski said SEMCORA officers have concealed carry permits and receive the same gun certifications as police officers. They also adhere to a list of approved firearms. He also addressed concerns about SEMCORA officers using police vehicles, adding that they would begin as foot and mountain bike patrol officers and the city would have control over whether they ever used vehicles.

“In my opinion, don’t even give them cars,” Mardarski said. “That way, they focus on the foot patrols and the bike patrols.”

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