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IM, Kingsford study combining police, fire service

September 5, 2012
The Daily News



IRON MOUNTAIN - Discussions between the cities of Iron Mountain and Kingsford during the past three years have culminated in a draft document that would eventually establish the Iron Mountain-Kingsford Public Safety Authority - combining police and fire services.

At Monday's Iron Mountain City Council meeting, City Manager Jordan Stanchina presented the draft to the council. Kingsford City Council also reviewed the proposal.

This gives both councils a chance to look over the draft and get feedback on the document prior to taking any action.

"This draft does not contain any staffing recommendations, as that would be determined at a later date," Stanchina noted in a memo to the council.

"Based on the number of near term retirements, it is an excellent time to discuss this and attain direction on how to proceed," Stanchina added. "Savings will only be realized by the reduction in combined manpower, which currently stands at 42."

There are currently 17 Kingsford Public Safety officers and 14 Iron Mountain Police Department officers, and another 11 firefighters with the Iron Mountain Fire Department.

The Consolidated Services Committee, which is made up of representatives from both cities, has been discussing the concept of combining these services for a number of years.

According to Stanchina, the issues that need to be considered if both cities want to form an authority include costs projected for staffing of the authority, economic incentives by the state of Michigan to provide shared services between neighboring communities and existing/retired employees and the current obligations of each city.

A wage/cost analysis provided by Stanchina for the Emergency Services Authority presented figures of the cost of each city's departments as of June 30. For Kingsford, the KPSD cost $1,448,257 and in Iron Mountain, the police and fire departments cost $1,978,658 for a total cost of $3,426,915 for both cities. (Those figures represent labor costs less pension contributions.)

Other information includes figures on the 2011 taxable valuation for each city, which totaled $336,550,536. For Iron Mountain, the taxable value was $213,418,123 or 63.4 percent of the total and Kingsford had $123,132,413 of the taxable value or 36.6 percent.

"The manpower proposal goal for an emergency services authority is estimated at 34-36 men. This was based on information provided by the Escanaba Public Safety Department of a similar size service area, a study by Kingsford Mayor Michael Flaminio, who is a former KPSD lieutenant, and the 2010 Lynn Harvey (Michigan State University) study," according to information provided in the proposed draft.

Assuming an authority of 36 men at $82,000 each a year and using the 2011 taxable valuation breakdown, costs for manpower would be $2,952,000 for yearly wages, leave and benefits. Taking 63.4 percent of the cost, Iron Mountain would pay $1,871,568 and Kingsford at 36.6 percent of the total would cover $1,080,432.

Within the proposed Articles of Incorporation is the make-up for the administrative policy board to govern the authority. It would consist of six members - the Iron Mountain City Manager, mayor of the city of Iron Mountain, Kingsford City Manager, mayor of the city of Kingsford and a representative appointed each year by the Iron Mountain and Kingsford councils. The appointments would be made for two years.

Iron Mountain council member Ted Corombos pointed out that, with this makeup, no city would have the ability to make a decision because it would require a 4-2 vote to pass.

"This has been a work in progress that our consolidated services committee has been involved in. This is an important event for both our cities - Iron Mountain and Kingsford," said Iron Mountain Mayor Bruce Rosen.

With the information provided about the Emergency Services Authority, Corombos suggested that they put the document - all 27 pages - on the city's website so the public can see what is being proposed.

"I'm neither optimistic nor pessimistic about this. Some of the features will fit Kingsford better than ours and some we have couldn't be incorporated into this right now. We have eight retirees between the two cities that would bring the number down to 34 and that would still be too many. We need to get to a reasonable number to do this," Corombos said.

Stanchina said it was within a four- to five-year period to get to that "good" number within the two cities.

Corombos added that the attorney for the two cities made it clear to them that they would have a lot of flexibility within this document. "We can do some parts and refine it, and do some more and keep adding to it."

But in order to move forward, there must be bylaws and the authority has to have its own identity.

"It's similar to what was set up between the two cities for the Iron Mountain-Kingsford Wastewater Treatment Facility," Stanchina said.

Corombos said that they need input on this draft document before they can vote on it. "It may or may not be done by the end of the year. But a lot of good work has already gone on here on this."

Councilman Colin Jacobetti questioned how far the city is from realizing this authority. "Is it a year, several years or a half a year before it can happen?"

"It comes down to what we can work out with Kingsford," Rosen said.

Councilman Dale Alessandrini agreed. "We need to see where our savings are - public safety or separate police and fire. The cost savings analysis shows where the savings will be for each city."

"We would have an agreement on fire and then one on police separately. We need to try to get the contracts for both to expire at the same time. There are also questions on pension plans and the health benefits, which are different for both cities upon retirement," Corombos said.

"We are basically going to fund two-thirds of this and Kingsford will fund one-third of it. There is still a long list of issues to be discussed," Corombos added.

"I agree with the whole concept and I hope we get to weigh in on it. It's a good idea and long overdue," Jacobetti said.

Stanchina agreed that it was time to move forward on this idea. "There would be a savings equipment-wise as well as in wages. Both communities agreed to bring it out and see where it ends up."

"This is a beginning and I think it's a good beginning for our two cities," Rosen said.

Kingsford Mayor Michael Flaminio, who served on the joint committee that is bringing the plan forward, is skeptical of the projected savings.

"At this point, I haven't seen the evidence that we need to consolidate with Iron Mountain," he said at Monday's Kingsford meeting. "Buyer beware, if you're a Kingsford resident."

Flaminio added that it's important to make the plan public so it can be discussed rationally.

"The cities are in a position where we need to do something to save money," he said.

Council member Jeff Pearson, also a member of the joint committee, said the numbers have to be justified, but there could be potential savings. "We just want to show you where we're at," he said.

As proposed, Pearson noted, Kingsford would be responsible for a little more than a third of the cost, but would have a full 50 percent representation on the authority board.

Council member Brian Smeester said the cities have already delayed too long in seeking ways to merge emergency services.

Council member Dennis Baldinelli said the plan is "a nice outline," but many details must be hammered out if it's to go forward.

"I want a prenup before we get married," he remarked.

Kingsford Public Safety Sgt. Brian Metras, representing the officers union, said there aren't enough positives for Kingsford in the merger to offset the lost services.

He predicted that officers would be spending much more time in Iron Mountain, delaying emergency response times for Kingsford residents.

"If we're in Iron Mountain, we don't get there on time," he said, citing examples in recent weeks (a choking baby, a sexual assault) where prompt responses have saved lives or prevented further harm.



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