By ANDREA POTEET
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – The city has slightly more than a month to find an offer to outsource its Police and Fire departments after passing a budget that leaves out funding for both departments.
The $15 million 2012-13 budget, passed at Tuesday’s city council meeting, allots a combined $3.9 million for “contractual services” for both departments, but no money for “personal services,” or wages, an expense to the tune of $5 million, half the $10 million in total expenses for both departments, under the 2011-12 fiscal year budget.
The city council plans to contract with a nearby city to provide police and fire services from within Allen Park’s current police and fire facilities, but despite letters sent to Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Taylor, Southgate, Lincoln Park, Melvindale and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, the city has not yet received an offer to do so. The fiscal year begins July 1.
City Administrator John Zech said there have been no meetings with any of those cities, but he is working to schedule them.
“If it isn’t accomplished by the end of June, you can’t wash your hands of it,” Zech told the council. “You have to keep working to find a way to, by the end of June of ’13, be in the black.”
Carl Johnson, of Plante and Moran said if the city cannot get an offer for contractual services by the start of the fiscal year, they must come up with up to $4 million in police and fire wages until they can do so, through contracting public safety entirely out to one city, sharing the duties with another city, or any combination thereof.
“Any combination will work,” Johnson said. “You just need to come up with $4 million, and it’s a monstrous number.”
The budget passed with one council member, Harry Sisko, dissenting, though many in the audience voiced outrage over the lack of funding for public safety.
Allen Park Firfighter’s Union president Jeff O’Riley said the allotment would not be enough to provide the city with adequate protection and if the city could secure a bid, the price would only go up in subsequent years, leaving the city unable to pay for it.
“You’ve given away the farm,” he said. “You’ve given away the safety of the city, and you’re never
getting it back.”
Allen Park Police Officer Wayne Allbright echoed those concerns, doubting whether similarly understaffed neighboring cities could handle the additional workload.
“I don’t think you’re truly looking at it in a practical sense,” he said. “All the other communities, they’re hurting, not as much as we are. We’ve cut back on the amount of work in the city and patrol, but so has everyone else.
“I don’t see how Lincoln Park, Taylor, Melvindale or Dearborn can afford to send officers over to our city and respond to the 12,000 service calls that we handle each year.”
Councilman Bob Keenan addressed those who spoke against the move, calling them “Johnny-come-latelies” and saying had a 4-mill levy passed May 8, the city would not have to look at such drastic cuts.
“We have to make decisions based on what you guys have given us,” Keenan said.
Councilman Dennis Hayes disagreed, saying the city would be in about the same boat had the millage passed.
“Even if we had passed the millage, we wouldn’t have enough to do what we need to do, and that’s just an absolute fact,” he said. “You can dress it up any way you want it, you can put lipstick on it, but there’s not enough money to do what we’re trying to do, we can’t continue.”