Sumpter Township officials are in serious talks with surrounding communities to consolidate dispatch and lockup services in line with Gov. Rick Snyder’s call for cooperation.
At Sumpter’s June 14 meeting, township attorney Rob Young explained that he has continued to meet with Huron Township concerning a plan to consolidate dispatch and lockup services.
Young said everyone is working together with a “deep desire” to cut costs for the municipalities.
He said also talks continue on pursing a five-member dispatch for the municipalities in the 34th Court district: Romulus, Huron, Belleville, Van Buren, and Sumpter.
“Belleville asked for our possible involvement with them and I don’t know that will happen,” Young said.
He said the goal is to provide the same level of service at reduced costs for everyone.
Young said, “Sumpter Township has a very up-to-date [dispatch] system, one of the best around.”
He said Huron has been contacted by other municipalities, but it wants to stay with Sumpter Township, he said.
Young said Sumpter is committed to consolidating its dispatch and, in fact, cut $200,000 from the dispatch budget in the present budget.
“We’re mandated to do this by the state of Michigan,” Young said of consolidation. He said there are revenue sharing cuts and the township could get some money back if it consolidates.
The dispatch/lockup is external consolidation.
Also, Young said, there is a bill working its way through the legislature to mandate internal cuts, to force communities to consolidate internal practices.
Clerk Clarence Hoffman said years ago the Sheriff’s Department used to dispatch for small police departments, including Sumpter.
He said Washtenaw County is dispatching for the City of Ypsilanti.
“I feel the township needs to keep the dispatch in Sumpter Township,” Clerk Hoffman said, adding Sumpter’s been told Sumpter is too far from Belleville to put dispatch in Sumpter, “But we always had to drive to Belleville.”
He referred to the days of Central Dispatch, when dispatch was in Belleville.
If it can’t be in Sumpter, Hoffman said he would like to see dispatch for the five communities done by Wayne County Sheriff.
“I don’t see going to Huron. I don’t see going to Romulus,” Hoffman said.
Young said they have talked to the Sheriff and the Airport police and they are interested in participating in that consolidation.
“There’s nothing magical about where dispatch is located,” Young said, adding Ann Arbor just turned over the city’s dispatch to the county and the Sheriff now is responsible for dispatch for every municipality in Washtenaw County.
“If you have the lockup, too, locations matters,” Young said. He added that the discussions have been on consolidating dispatch and lockup.
“When I was a police officer, we used to drive to Henry Ruff and Michigan [to the Sheriff’s department],” Hoffman said.
Young said to house prisoners for the five communities they would need a state-of-the-art dispatch and state-of-the-art lockup.
Currently, he said, there are two dispatchers in VBT, two in Romulus, one in Huron, and one in Sumpter, for a total of six dispatchers for five communities. Belleville is dispatched by VBT.
He said Washtenaw County has one dispatch that covers the whole county. Monroe also has one dispatch for the whole county.
Young said if the Sumpter officials are serious about cutting costs, the almost $200,000 saved by consolidation could be used elsewhere for Sumpter residents.
“Logically, to me, it makes total sense,” Young said.
“We’ve reached out to other communities,” Young said. “Our equipment is state of the art. We asked and they said no. We can’t make them come.
“You voted for the budget unanimously and you can’t get there with the status quo.
“I know it’s difficult. I know it’s territorial,” Young said.
“I know the supervisor agonized over this and I know the chief agonized over this,” Young said.
Trustee Peggy Morgan said the township will be able to capture money for the state and have the same quality in dispatch.
“Other communities are in the same boat,” she said. “It’s all about money.”
Hoffman continued to be in support of using the Sheriff who, he said, already has facilities.
“What’s the difference between the Sheriff and Huron Township to save $200,000?” asked Supervisor Johnny Vawters.
“Instead of going to another township, go to the county,” Hoffman replied.
“Should Sumpter Township join up with Maybee?” Vawters asked.
“Everything is leaving Sumpter Township,” Hoffman replied. “I think the residents would like something to stay in Sumpter … the library goes to Belleville and Van Buren.”
“It’s nothing we want to do,” Vawter replied. “You don’t want to die, but you have to.”
Deputy Clerk Craig Moody said his ex-wife used to dispatch for Washtenaw County and so he knows things. He said communities who don’t have their own police departments are not happy with the Sheriff’s response in Washtenaw.
“The reasons we got our own police was we weren’t happy with the Sheriff’s service,” Moody said.
“We have to do a merger. The state is making us do this,” Moody stressed, adding it’s five minutes to Huron Township and seven minutes to Romulus. “Henry Ruff is a lot farther.”
Moody pointed out that Sumpter has the lowest population in this area.
He said going with the Sheriff would be a step backward in his opinion.
Young addressed Hoffman: “If you can make a deal with the Sheriff, go ahead. Save $200,000.” Hoffman said he would meet with the Sheriff.
“I know how Mr. Hoffman feels,” said Police Chief Jim Pierce, “but Mr. Young talked to me [about the situation].
“I would like to ease the dispatchers in [to jobs]. They’ve been loyal. I’m not sure what Wayne County would offer, maybe ‘dangling something out there,’ but I’d like to keep the dispatchers’ jobs.”
Trustee Peggy Morgan said she did not and would not vote to bring dispatch to Sumpter from Belleville, when Central Dispatch dissolved, “… but ultimately I was pleased. Now, I don’t want it to go anywhere.
“I think at the end of the day, it’ll be OK,” Morgan said. “It’s not what we want to do. It’s what we have to do.”
The board approved attorney Young continuing talks toward consolidation.
In other business at the June 14 meeting, the board:
• Approved the 2011-12 budget of $3,880,172 for the 34th District Court as presented by Chief Judge Tina Brooks Green and Judge David Parrott. Judge Green said the numbers were unchanged from last year’s budget which appears to be coming in 5-8% under budget. The new fiscal year begins July 1. “We’re trying to make sure we are tightening our belts,” she said, adding the court lost a couple of employees and has a freeze on hiring;
• Approved Resolution 2011-03 Senior Alliance Annual Affirmation which approves the annual implementation plan for 2012;
• Approved using Michigan Lawn Management to cut the grass of foreclosed/abandoned homes for the same cost as last year. The motion also included direction to put the law about tall grass into the newspaper of record so people will know;
• Approved paying warrants of $158,599.73;
• Approved a retainer agreement for Gary Remer, an attorney specializing in retirement systems, to bring the employee retirement systems plan up to date. About 40 pages need to be filed with the IRS. The cost of $4,000 to $6,000 for the work will be expensed to the plan, but Sumpter provided $2,000 against that cost;
• After discussion about the deteriorating pier on the pond at Banotai Park, Trustee Peggy Morgan said she would ask her husband Bud to look at it and see if he can fix it with some other volunteers. Also, it was noted that the park grant money from Wayne County for Sumpter includes rebuilding of the pier, but that project has yet to be scheduled. Trustee Bill Hamm said he was worried about the township’s liability because a child could get hurt;
• Heard Trustee Morgan say that the numbers are not all in for Sumpter Fest, but they are looking good. “Breaking even would be good,” Hamm said. “Hopefully, it’ll be better than breaking even,” Morgan replied. A report on the financial totals from the festival is expected at the June 28 meeting;
• Heard Trustee Morgan announce that the annual Family Fun Day will be held beginning at noon on July 16 at Graham Park. There will be games for children, food, and a softball game between Sumpter Township police/fire team and Belleville police/fire;
• Heard Supervisor Vawters say that negotiations with AFSCME local was scheduled for a full day on June 15. “At the next meeting, I’ll have a lot to say about it,” Vawters said; and
• Approved Deputy Clerk Esther Hurst’s request to join with other communities to ask Circuit Court to take uncollectable personal property taxes off the tax rolls. Some companies have been bankrupt for almost a decade with no assets to attach.