By BROOKE STEVENSON
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK — The Police and Fire departments were praised for their progress during Mayor Gary Burtka’s State of the City Address.
Each department made changes in 2008 that helped to keep costs down, while boosting morale among employees, he said.
The city settled contracts with police that saved the city approximately $79,000 last year. The agreements include a new policy on sick time usage and eliminating the performance evaluation plan, which reportedly has enhanced officers’ performance and enforcement activities.
A new in-house computer system installed to shorten response times and increase safety. It allows for information sharing between departments and has mobile file reporting, which allows officers’ cars to remain on patrol.
Also added were a digital dispatch to keep the radio free for serious emergencies and Global Positioning System tracking to allow for greater officer safety, accountability and efficiency.
The software supports multiagency use to monitor during mutual aid incidents and includes bar coding for handling and tracking evidence.
In 2008 the department responded to almost 17,000 calls for service, issued 15,500 citations and arrested 1,700 people. In turn, the 24th District Court collected $690,000 from violations issued by Allen Park and Melvindale departments.
Police received several $81,000 in grants, including money from the Bulletproof Vest Partnership, the Commercial Equipment Direct Assistance Program for night vision equipment, the Michigan Safe Communities toward highway safety and from the U.S. Department of Justice Program for the investigation of sex offenders.
Six officers retired in 2008 and will be replaced by the department. The new hires sre scheduled to begin this month and be road-ready by late spring.
The Fire Department also saw changes in personnel, including new Fire Chief Mark Hogrebe and new Deputy Chief Douglas Lafond.
Insurance billing was instituted in the Fire Department for cost recovery of vehicle accidents and fire calls, which will generate income within the department, Burtka said.
Fire prevention and education was reinstated in the elementary schools and senior living housing.
Officials in both departments say they will continue to focus on improving service within the city while looking for ways to save money in a downward economy.
“I have never seen, in recent memory, the morale and participation so high in either department,” Burtka said.