By JIM ANDERSON
KINGSFORD - Core issues are unresolved and little progress is being made towards a possible merger of police and fire services in Iron Mountain and Kingsford, based on discussions heard Monday at a Kingsford City Council meeting.
Kingsford Mayor Dennis Baldinelli said he's disappointed that Iron Mountain is promoting the concept of separate police and fire departments. "I wasn't totally happy with the comments that were made," he said of the April 23 meeting of the consolidated services committee.
Council member Michael Flaminio echoed that, saying there were too many statements "berating" Kingsford's Public Safety Department. Flaminio even apologized for losing his cool at the meeting, and promised a calmer approach at future sessions.
Kingsford Public Safety Sgt. Brian Metras, representing the officers union, said the consolidation talks are affecting morale among Kingsford officers.
Judging from the April 23 meeting, Iron Mountain has trouble getting its own police and fire departments on the same page, he said. If those agencies have issues trying to "co-mingle," it makes little sense to bring Kingsford into the mix, he said.
But council member Brian Smeester said the public is receptive to the idea of consolidated services, and progress is needed towards a police-fire agreement that can be put to a vote.
A preliminary budget from Iron Mountain has suggested a significant cost savings by having the two cities served by separate police and fire departments - a greater savings than a combined public safety agency where officers play both roles.
Kingsford, meanwhile, has remained committed to a public safety authority.
The joint committee expects to explore updated budget figures from Iron Mountain at a session tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, May 14.
The council also heard from KPS Officer Ken Wood, who said the public safety structure has served Kingsford well for the past 35 years, saving money and providing excellent service.
In other action Monday, the Kingsford council:
- Learned that bond counsel Miller Canfield has successfully completed refinancing of the city's public works facility bonds, first sold in 1997. The interest rate will be reduced from the current 4.75 percent to 2.7 percent, resulting in a $281,000 savings over the remaining 15 years of payments, Edlebeck said.
- Gave permission to Zero Gravity Outreach to use Lodal Park from Friday, July 5, through Sunday, July 7, for freestyle motorcycle shows. Friday will be for setup and practice, with two free-admission performances on Saturday, and worship events on Sunday, said Tim Wilkinson, a representative of the non-profit Christian group. Shows have been held the past two years in downtown Iron Mountain, but that venue is becoming too small to accommodate the number of spectators, he said.
- Agreed to declare an entry level vacancy in the public safety department as 14-year veteran officer Craig Brey has accepted a police position in Green Bay, Wis.
- Gave permission to Public Safety Director Tim Gussert to pursue a federal COPS grant for public safety staffing. COPS - the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services - is part of the U.S. Department of Justice. Chances for funding may be slim, Gussert said, but with vacancies likely to arise due to retirements, applying for a grant makes sense.
- Heard City Manager Tony Edlebeck report that Davies Water, a division of Ferguson Waterworks of Appleton, Wis., will soon begin a water main leak detection survey throughout the city. Estimated cost of the one-week project is $4,900.
- Noted the appointment of Tom Hagberg to fill a vacancy on the Kingsford Housing Commission.
- In keeping with past practice, granted a request from Breitung Township Schools to close a portion of Hamilton Avenue for the Upper Peninsula Track and Field Championships scheduled for Saturday, June 1, at Flivver Field.
- Scheduled a special meeting for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 22, to discuss the city's 2013-14 fiscal year budget.
Jim Anderson's email address is email@example.com.