Iron Mountain and Kingsford have begun discussing combining police and fire department services.
This is a good first step - and idea that should be explored.
Iron Mountain and Kingsford city councils are reviewing a draft document that would eventually establish the Iron Mountain-Kingsford Public Safety Authority.
This is not a hastily-written paper.
Representatives from Iron Mountain and Kingsford have been meeting for the past three years to study the logistics and implications of this idea.
"This draft does not contain any staffing recommendations, as that would be determined at a later date," said Iron Mountain City Manager Jordan Stanchina.
"Based on the number of near-term retirements, it is an excellent time to discuss this and attain direction on how to proceed," he added. "Savings will only be realized by the reduction in combined manpower, which currently stands at 42."
Serving the twin cities today are 17 Kingsford Public Safety officers and 14 Iron Mountain Police Department officers, and 11 firefighters with the Iron Mountain Fire Department.
The draft document recommends a police and fire staff of about 35 to handle the needs of Iron Mountain and Kingsford.
"The manpower proposal goal for an emergency services authority is estimated at 34-36 men," the draft document says. "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."
If something like this becomes a reality, Kingsford's public safety costs could go from $1,448,257 annually down to $1,080,432.
The cost of Iron Mountain's police and fire protection services would be reduced from $1,978,658 per year to $1,871,568.
No one is suggesting or desires massive layoffs to accomplish this merger. Personnel reductions would be accomplished through retirements at all three departments in both cities.
"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," said Iron Mountain City Councilman Ted Corombos.
And the issue needs to be thoroughly studied by both city councils, and input sought from area residents before taking any action.
Kingsford Mayor 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.
The significance of this concept cannot be overstated.
"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.
The idea could also spread to other service areas.
We already have the Iron Mountain-Kingsford Wastewater Treatment Facility, Breitung Township Schools and Iron Mountain Schools are sharing services and personnel, and the consolidated services committee could also study combining the cities' public works departments, as well as municipal administrative duties.
In today's world of rising costs and tight budgets, all local government entities should strive to increase cooperation and reduce redundant services.