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Consolidation considered

Oxford, Orion substations could merge, save $859K

December 15, 2010 - If necessity is the mother of invention, then a lack of revenue must be its father.

With property values facing another year of decline and voters in no mood to approve a tax increase, Oxford Township officials last week listened to a proposal from Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe to consolidate Oxford and Orion's police services under one roof, saving both communities a combined $859,178.

"I'm pretty excited about this," he said. "There are other communities that we contract with that are looking at this. This is the first one that's really had some legs to it."

"We have to do whatever we can to keep as many boots on the streets (as possible)," said Oxford Twp. Supervisor Bill Dunn. "We owe it to the people to do our best at that."

Officials voted 5-1 to direct Dunn to work with Orion Township and the sheriff's department and "see if they can come up with some better figures."

"These figures are nice, but I think they can be better," said Trustee Sue Bellairs, who made the motion.

Orion's township board is expected to discuss the proposal at its Dec. 20 meeting.

Sharing building, secretary and command staff

As it stands right now, the consolidation proposal would save Oxford $256,620 per year while Orion would save $602,558.

The proposal calls for moving Oxford's contingency of sheriff's officers into the Orion Township substation located at 2525 Joslyn Rd. and eliminating the Oxford substation secretary altogether.

By doing this, Oxford would save $62,800 annually over the combined $106,000 it's currently spending for building rent and clerical staff.

Under the proposal, Oxford would pay Orion a total of $43,200 (or 36 percent) for rent and clerical staff.

"Thirty-six percent of the personnel would be from Oxford Township, so you pay for 36 percent of the cost of command, the secretary and the building," McCabe explained. "That number is negotiable between you guys. That's not our call. That's your call."

Command staff is included because that cost and service would also be shared between the two townships.

The joint Oxford/Orion substation would be commanded by one lieutenant (Orion's current commander, Lt. Bruce Naile) and three sergeants. Oxford would pay 36 percent of the $562,050 command staff cost, which works out to $202,338.

"All you're doing is basically removing the cost of part of your building, your secretarial (services) and your existing command staff and you're sharing it," McCabe told officials. "You're creating more of a regional substation approach."

Officials nix Oxford lieutenant

Oxford already took the first step last week by voting 6-0 to eliminate its substation commander, Lt. Larry Perry, as of Jan. 1, 2011. A lieutenant's position alone costs $150,605, which includes salary, benefits, vehicle and equipment.

McCabe noted that Perry isn't out of a job.

"He'll be transferred elsewhere in the department," he said. "We have a couple of vacant lieutenant's positions from people that have retired. He will not be demoted, but he'll be reassigned someplace else."

'Boots on the street'

The one thing that wouldn't change is the number of officers on the street. Right now, Oxford has 12 deputies and one patrol investigator serving the township.

"They will still be dedicated to this township," McCabe said.

The only thing they would be doing in Orion is reporting for work there, changing clothes, showering and picking up their patrol car.

"The bottom-line is you'll have the same amount of boots on the street that you have today," McCabe said. "The patrol cars out on the street that you currently have would remain the same. I think that's very important to the residents of Oxford Township."

In fact, McCabe indicated they'll be "a little bit" more coverage because Oxford's current sergeant would be transferred to the Orion substation, thereby increasing the number of sergeants there from two to three.

The sergeants would then serve both townships, according to McCabe.

"Our sergeants respond to calls," he told this reporter. "They take reports. They back the guys up on traffic stops. They back up family fights or calls that require two people. That's why I say they'll actually be more boots on the street because those guys are going to be floating between Orion and Oxford townships."

Maintaining a local office presence

Although Oxford deputies would be working out of the Orion substation, that doesn't mean residents would have to drive all the way down there to obtain a copy of a report or file one.

McCabe indicated there will be an area for all that set up inside the Oxford Township Hall, located at 300 Dunlap Rd., just north of Seymour Lake Rd.

"They'll be a computer. They'll be a report-writing room," he told this reporter. "We'll put a sign out on Seymour Lake Rd. that says sheriff's office and a sign in front of the township hall. They'll be the phone box outside the building just like there is at the substation now."

When residents walk in, township employees would greet them, then call a sheriff's deputy to come in and assist them.

If a resident simply needs a copy of a police report, township employees would be able to get it for them without calling a deputy, according to McCabe.

"It really is a further consolidation of services for the benefit of the residents and taxpayers," he told this reporter.

Cutting a midnight deputy?

Despite the talk of increased "boots on the street," Dunn indicated Oxford Township might also consider cutting one deputy from the midnight shift, something that was not in McCabe's proposal.

According to projections calculated by Dunn's department, if the consolidation proposal is implemented as presented by McCabe, the township would still face a $343,385 deficit in its police budget by Dec. 31, 2014.

However, if a midnight deputy was cut, the police budget would have a $142,007 surplus by the end of 2014.

"I hate doing this part of the job," Dunn said. "I love the personnel that are here, but again we've only got so much money."

Saving on overtime

Another advantage of substation consolidation would be the estimated cost savings in overtime for both Oxford and Orion.

Right now, if a deputy calls in sick or takes a day off at either substation, in order to replace him or her, the township needs to pay overtime to put substitute on the road.

If the substations were consolidated, on those days when one township needs a substitute and the other township has more than enough patrol cars on the road, the extra deputy can be sent to the other township, which could then pay a "straight time" rate for the officer as opposed to overtime.

The cost for a "straight time" deputy and patrol car is $44.99 per hour whereas the cost for an overtime officer and vehicle is $67.48 per hour.

"That will reduce your overall overtime costs," McCabe said.

The township that hires a "straight time" deputy as opposed to an overtime one saves $179.92 for an eight-hour shift. The supplying township receives $359.92 for that eight-hour shift to reduce their costs.

'Everybody is cutting back'

In the end, it's going to be up to the Oxford and Orion township boards to make this consolidation happen, if they wish, and work out the details.

"You've got to do what you've got to do and we fully understand the cuts that have to take place," McCabe said. "It's like a private business. Government's no different. You've got to do what you've got to do and you've got to make it work the best you can."

The sheriff's department itself has already eliminated 130 positions, mainly in the corrections area.

"Everybody is cutting back," McCabe said. "There's only so many dollars in the kitty and we totally understand that."

The undersheriff said that three years ago, Waterford Township had 105 officers serving it. Come Jan. 1, it will have 55 officers protecting a community of 80,000 residents that borders Pontiac.

"You aren't immune to it. Nobody's immune to it," he said.

Orion Township's looking at cutting three officers from its substation, McCabe noted.

No school liaison officer

Township resident Debbie Redlin asked if the sheriff's proposal included a school liaison officer for Oxford.

McCabe indicated it did not.

Speaking as an Oxford Township resident, the undersheriff said, "I don't know that it's the township's responsibility to fund something within the school district."

"I think it's a great idea," he said. "We have it in many other communities. But in most of the other communities, the school district pays for it. It shouldn't necessarily fall upon the township residents."

From a law enforcement perspective, McCabe said, "We would love to have an officer in the school district and we did for many years. But because of cutbacks the school district decided that they wanted to eliminate that position."

The school district had budgeted $50,000 for the 2010-11 fiscal year to help fund an officer, however, Assistant Superintendent Tim Loock stated in Dec. 9 e-mail "that money has been reallocated as the police liaison position will not be implemented this year."

Praise for Dunn

McCabe did wish to praise Dunn for taking a proactive role on this consolidation idea.

"I commend Mr. Dunn for having some leadership on this issue," he said. "He pushed hard on it when some of the other township supervisors were not so hot on it. Now, we've got a lot of them knocking on the door, saying, 'Gee this is a pretty good model.'"

Despite his statements immediately after the Nov. 2 election, Dunn indicated he's since had a change of heart and now has no interest in once again asking voters to approve a tax increase for police services.

By a margin of just two votes, Oxford Township voters last month failed a proposed five-year, 0.75-mill police tax increase.

"As far as I'm concerned it was voted down and those with the most votes here in America win," Dunn said. "Now, we have to do with what we have. We only have so much money in that pot and this is the best way."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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