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From today’s Detroit News:
Tony suburbs consider cop, fire mergers
Bloomfield Twp. will study union with Birmingham to save money.
Two of Oakland County’s toniest suburbs are considering merging public safety departments to cut costs.
The Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees on Monday agreed to study merging the township’s police and fire departments with Birmingham’s, a move likely to save both communities money as municipalities across Metro Detroit pinch pennies. Birmingham’s City Council will vote on a similar proposal on Monday.
“This is a long time coming in many ways,” said township Trustee David Buckley. “This is going to take a lot of work. But I think this is something we want to be leaders in — not followers.”
As costs increase, Bloomfield Township Supervisor David Payne said local governments are being forced to examine how they deliver services.
And rather than raise taxes or cut services, Payne said the two communities decided to discuss a merger. He said partnering with Birmingham made sense because both have full-service police and fire departments, similar demographics and a shared border.
And public safety carries a heavy price tag for both communities. Bloomfield’s 101-employee Police Department and 69-employee Fire Department account for more than half — $22 million — of the township’s $40 million budget. Birmingham’s two departments make up roughly 36 percent of the city’s roughly $27 million total budget, with 52 full-time Police Department employees and 38 1/2 Fire Department employees.
There is no cost-savings estimate yet for the proposal.
But Payne said any merger would be done very gradually and with reductions in staff only coming through attrition.
“We’re going to take our time at this,” Payne said. “We’re going to move slowly and cautiously. We’re looking at more sharing of services and shared equipment with the ultimate goal down the road of consolidation.”
Birmingham City Manager Tom Markus said he doesn’t see any downside to merging.
“I see opportunities for both departments to advance,” he said.