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Townships look to consolidate police operations

December 22, 2010 - A phenomenal opportunity.

That was one term used by Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe to describe a sheriff's office substation-sharing proposal on the table between Orion and Oxford townships.

While not yet finalized or approved by either board, the plan calls for shutting down the Oxford Township substation and moving the 13 deputies currently based there to the Orion substation on Joslyn Road.

"It's trailblazer is what it is," said McCabe, who addressed the Orion Township Board of Trustees Monday.

For the most part, Orion's deputies will still patrol and respond to calls in Orion, and Oxford's deputies will do likewise in Oxford.

Significant savings for both communities will come from consolidation: First, of base operations set up to allow patrol and investigative services to flow out of one substation.

"You're still going to have a good number of boots on the street, so your service levels will not drop," said McCabe, an Oxford resident who formerly served as substation commander in Orion. "You'll reduce your costs and Oxford will reduce their costs by consolidating everyone here."

An additional benefit to Orion, he pointed out, is the increase in patrol cars and thus police presence in the community.

Significant savings will also arise from the consolidation of command structure.

Oxford already took the first step recently with a 6-0 vote to eliminate its substation commander, Lt. Larry Perry, as of Jan. 1 . A lieutenant's position costs $150,605, which includes salary, benefits, vehicle and equipment.

Under the new proposal, the joint Oxford/Orion substation would be commanded by one lieutenant – Orion's current commander, Lt. Bruce Naile – and three sergeants.

Oxford would pay its proportionate percentage for its command staff and housing.

"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 Oxford officials when he made the same proposal there Dec. 8. "You're creating more of a regional substation approach."

But, if the proposal gets approval of both boards, it won't be as easy as packing up a few boxes and moving the Oxford substation across town.

"Portions (of the proposal) can be instituted at any time," said Naile. "Probably within a month some of the command sharing and overtime practices will be agreed upon and changed."

But, he pointed out, the substation doesn't have the capacity to handle 13 deputies in addition to the 27 officers who currently work in Orion.

"The actual housing switch can't occur until we find space," Naile said. "There is some space in the township hall – the township supervisor is talking about moving some people out and moving the substation upstairs, but we don't need that much space for people to change shift; we just need locker room space."

A more cost efficient solution, he theorized, would be to build an addition to the current substation.

Although the sheriff's office has been tossing around the "regional substation" idea with a number of its 15 contracted communities for several years, the latest proposal grew from a July 29 meeting when the OSCO brought those communities together to look resource sharing.

"The reaction was positive," said McCabe. "It was our task to come up with a bunch of models for potentially combining substations."

Oxford Township Supervisor Bill Dunn also attended the Orion meeting Monday, and told the Orion board that, for Oxford, an alternative to the current substation at 2119 N. Lapeer was a necessity.

"We have 100 percent backing (from the Oxford board) to continuing talking to explore this," Dunn said, noting his township's voters rejected a .75 police millage increase by two votes in the Nov. 2 election. "I'm not the kind of person who wants to go back for a re-vote. The people spoke. We have to make do with the money we have in our hands."

Orion trustees voted 6-0 to continue talks with Oxford. A final contract will be brought back for approval.

Lake Orion Review Editor
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