If you are a reader of the City’s main webpage, you’ll note a news release that announces that we are trying a new model of managing our emergency services beginning January 1st.
In the recent past we have had two departments: police and fire each led by chiefs with the chiefs appointed by the city manager. Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s we had a public safety director who managed the police and our fire department which at that time was made up of a few full time people and largely paid-on-call firefighters. Since that time we have become a combination fire department with 16 full time firefighters and a larger number of paid on call fire fighters. We also now have a joint response with our fire department to medical calls with Star Ambulance under a contract. Our police department has also grown as our community grew both in size and complexity. But like every community, the reduction of tax revenues has created an environment that has caused us to question everything.
The economics of the state and the city bring new challenges to consolidate services seeking cost savings. In this new model, it isn’t yet clear exactly where those savings are going to be found and how much. But it makes sense to limit duplication of services wherever possible because that will limit costs over time.
A couple of important facts: we are not cross training our employees in police/fire skills. That is a very challenging thing in a community of our size and complexity. Of the departments that have done it, like Kalamazoo, they end up with specialized units to fight fires and respond to and investigate crime–effectively keeping their two functions. Secondly, Chief Burmeister and Assistant Chief Wyatt will retain their titles and remain in the fire department. Thirdly, we support the paid on call firefighters and they will remain an important part of our community.
We are looking forward to improving how we do our business in our training, service delivery and utilization of employees for both functions.
Next year will be an interesting one for me personally and the entire staff of both agencies. But we know that residents and businesses of Auburn Hills can continue to expect the same high level of service they have become accustomed to.