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Orion cutting police staff

Layoffs will include school liaison officer

September 29, 2010 - Commence cutting. From the way things look, police services will take a hit off the top and become one of the first budget casualties of 2011.

One of two Lake Orion Community Schools' police liaisons will be among three officers told to hit the bricks come Jan. 1

At a special budget workshop meeting Aug. 31, the Orion Township Board of Trustees voted to cut the township's police force by about 10 percent.

"The sheriff's office has received verbal notification," said Orion Township Substation Commander Lt. Bruce Naile "They'll receive written notification shortly."

In all, 30 patrol officers, detectives and command staff currently work out of the substation

According to meeting minutes, the board discussed a number of police-related issues before it was ultimately "moved by Trustee (JoAnn) Van Tassel, seconded by Clerk (Penny) Shults, to reduce police staffing by one school liaison, one directed patrol and one no-fill deputy."

The motion passed.

Naile said the decision to cut one of the two police liaisons came at the behest of the school district. Of the three officers headed out of Orion, he noted, the school district would probably feel the greatest impact.

"I think we'll manage with two less patrol officers," Naile said. "We should still be able to respond to calls in a timely fashion."

Orion Township Supervisor Matthew Gibb said he was cautiously optimistic about the police cuts.

"Clearly, anytime you reduce staffing it's going to have an impact," he said. "We've maintained the current level for several years, and we know we're able to share investigative, mutual aid and other types of resources with our surrounding communities. We don't believe we'll be caught short."

Gibb was also optimistic the remaining school liaison officer would fare OK flying solo.

Currently one officer is housed at the high school, while the second covers the district's seven elementary and three middle schools.

Under an ongoing agreement, Gibb said, the township was paying half the cost for each liaison, while the district paid the other half.

"They decided they only wanted to pay 50 percent for one deputy," Gibb said. "It kind of forced our hand, but we think we can schedule it in a way that all the schools are getting adequate coverage."

But while the cost of three deputies is shaved from next year's budget, Gibb said the township plans to stay on par with dispatch services.

Currently, emergency medical and fire dispatching are provided to Orion Township residents via contract with the Village of Lake Orion.

The village billed the township $102,000 in 2010 for emergency medical and fire dispatch services only; deputies who staff the Orion Township substation are dispatched by the county.

Oakland County Dispatch recently estimated it would charge the township about $40,000 annually for emergency medical and fire dispatch.

Each organization claims it could, or does, provide the superior service.

Fire Chief Jeff Key, who was also on hand at the Aug. 31 meeting, said he was "satisfied with the Village of Lake Orion dispatch service and is currently negotiating a reduction in fee."

"It's in everyone's best interest to stay with village dispatch," Gibb said. "We have a clear intent to continue that relationship."

Gibb also said consolidation of command structure with neighboring communities was also an option for cost cutting, as was a reduction in officer overtime.

And, while meeting minutes indicate a clear decision by the board, Gibb said no opportunity was provided for public comment, essentially, because the vote was made for the sake of determining direction.

He noted the issue would come up again when the board got closer to adopting the budget.

Clerk Penny Shults, however, indicated the vote was a done deal.

"Sometimes we take action at a special meeting, not always," she said. "In this case it was necessary so we could provide the sheriff's office with ample notice."

Shults also said that while the cuts were necessary, she wasn't happy about losing part of the community's police force.

"Especially for the schools," she said. "I think they're going to feel it the most."

Oakland county Undersheriff Mike McCabe said he hadn't yet received official notice of Orion deputy layoffs.

Lake Orion Review Editor
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