Recently we have been exposed to the meetings of the Joint commission on police and fire protection for our twin cities.
Of course, the idea is to determine whether a new single department consisting of both city's current departments can do the same job at a savings to each city.
As far as saving money goes, it appears as though the joint commission agrees that each city will indeed save money by consolidating.
The real meat of the issue appears to be a disagreement on which method of protecting the people of both cities will prevail: Kingsford's Public Safety method or Iron Mountain's Police and Fire departments method.
Well, let us let non-politicians decide that part.
Let us consider the following method. Since there appears to be no doubt that combining departments will save each city money, let us go ahead and combine, with an appropriate agreement that carries us far into the future. There also appears to be a seamless application of Police and Fire protection to the citizenry in that no private citizen can presently tell which method of protection he/she is receiving by the nature of the way it is provided.
The only people affected are the Police, Public Safety and Fire employees themselves, and the proud ownership by the city officials who worked to fine tune what is there now. Once again, the citizenry cannot tell as long as traffic is controlled, the fires are put out and crime is controlled. We really don't care how those safety providing people are organized to practice their profession.
Next, we will need a Public Protection Commission to govern this combined pair of departments.
My thinking is that it ought to consist of three representatives from within each city.
None shall ever be nor have been members of those departments nor elected twin city officials nor twin city managers. These commissioners shall be appointed by the city council of the opposite city for terms to be determined.
Compensation shall be the same as a city councilperson. All this is said to promote dissolving of the 'mine and 'yours' mentality. The Commission will work out contractual concerns, bill each city for their fair share of the services the Commission provides and hire the Protection Chief to operate the combined department as it sees fit.
The Protection Chief shall have the same duties each current chief now has. The Commission shall assume all protection related duties from each city and report to each city on a regular basis.
The Commission will be responsible for all supply, payroll, utility, vehicle and housing decisions and purchases, utilizing personnel from each city administration for these functions on a prorated basis based on population. Population is likely the fairest and simplest way to share costs.
The buildings presently occupied shall remain in their present ownership and care until and if such use is changed by the Commission. The Commission may use those buildings as it sees fit as long as some occupied use by the Commission is ongoing.
Using population as a proportioning device is good as the census every ten years can easily confirm each city's share. A higher population count ensures that each city is doing a great job to make its neighborhoods attractive to residency.
How about it folks? Would this work? Presuming approval at the public hearings, let the two cities simply sign an agreement and let the appointed Public Protection Commission do the work of sorting out the details to get it up and running and start saving some money.
Presumably each city will be very anxious to reduce their tax rate.