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Councilman wants village to consider outsourcing police services

by CJ Carnacchio

May 18, 2011

It's a subject with the potential to quickly ignite a heated and emotional debate within the community.

But that's not stopping Oxford Village Councilman Tony Albensi from wanting to discuss the idea of possibly of contracting with another entity to provide police and dispatch services to the village.

"I know it's not politically correct to say this, but (the village should) seriously consider whether we want to continue to run our own police department," said Albensi, during a budget discussion at the May 10 council meeting.

Right now, the village's proposed 2011-12 budget includes $638,337 for police and $282,862 for dispatch services, which equals a combined total of $921,199.

"Police and dispatch are a big chunk of our budget," Albensi said. "We, as a council, may need to start talking about outsourcing those services because it will save (money) not only now, but long-term."

Back in November 2010, the Oakland County Sheriff's Department presented the village council with four options if it were to provide contracted police services to the 1.4-square-mile municipality.

Options 1-3 ranged in cost from $606,664 to $740,237 per year. Staffing scenarios included four deputies, with or without a detective sergeant, to man a village substation. Those prices included dispatch services.

If the village wanted only dispatch services from the sheriff's department, the proposal indicated that would cost $26,248 annually.

Option 4 was for the village to partner with the township to provide coverage for both communities through the township's existing sheriff's substation.

Albensi made it clear he's just making a suggestion, not stating an opinion one way or the other about how the village should provide police and dispatch services.

"I'm not saying I'm for it or against it," he said. "I'm just saying it's something we need to put on the table and have a serious discussion."

Albensi noted he would be "perfectly fine" if council decided to put it on the ballot for village voters to decide.

Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth disagreed.

"I think the voters, in a way, have voted on it and they have continuously stood behind our department with their votes," she said.

Helmuth expressed her belief that council needs to "accept" that "this is the village" and "these are the services that we provide."

"These are our departments," she said. "Let's make them work. We're not getting rid of any more employees. This is what we have to work with. Let's focus on it."

Speaking as a village resident, township Supervisor Bill Dunn stated it's not true that village residents were given the opportunity to vote on police services.

"To say that it's been voted on is not even close," he said.

The current incarnation of the village police department which began serving the village on Feb 1, 2000 following the dissolution of the joint township-village agency was created by a unanimous vote of the five-member village council at a December 1999 meeting.

Despite the popular misconception, this department was not created by a vote of village residents.

Over the last 12 years, village residents have never been faced with any type of ballot questions concerning the police department's funding or level of services, or if they wish to be served by another agency.

The village continues to fund police and dispatch services through council's allocation of monies from its general operating millage, which is currently levied at a rate of 10.62 mills.

The village also charges the township $34,000 a year to provide it with fire/EMS dispatch services.

Village President Teri Stiles praised Albensi for broaching the police/dispatch subject.

"I have to commend your moxie for bringing that up," she said. "That's something that's whispered by everybody."