During a special 40-minute meeting on Oct. 17, the Van Buren Public Safety Committee met at Fire Hall #2 to go over the third-quarter report on the $8 million Public Safety Department budget.
Members of the committee and people in the audience asked questions about the budget and Public Safety Director Carl McClanahan and Fire Chief Dan Besson answered.
In December 2011 there was a last-minute realization that the Public Safety Department budget was not balanced because the amounts for the fringe benefits and full-time officer pay were incorrect, so the board had to have a special meeting to move funds into Public Safety to balance it before the end of the year.
At the Oct. 17 meeting, Director McClanahan said this year’s budget administration is right on target. He said 80% of the year has passed and slightly 20% is left in the budget.
He said if under 20% is left in a line item in the budget there has to be a reason.
He said the budget has an allocation and, “When it’s gone, it’s gone.”
Committee member Olivia Bruce asked about the negative figures for training for police and McClanahan replied that M-COLES pays for 80% of the training and the township gets reimbursed, so the line item is fluid.
Committee chairperson Diane Madigan asked about the $3,500 line item for crime prevention, 100% of which has not been spent.
McClanahan said they are putting together a display to show at community colleges, recruiting events, and public safety day. He said it would be an established, professional-looking display.
Madigan said the Refuse to be a Victim program was given once for the township without cost, but would cost $500 to be given again. She suggested using some of the funds for that program.
McClanahan did not comment on her suggestion, but said his department is restructuring and bringing back community policing.
“Our primary objective, our goal for the last seven months was filling shifts,” McClanahan reported. He said they had to hire two new police officers and both are in training. He said they can’t equal out their scheduling until the new officers are trained and then the department can work back into community policing.
John Delaney asked if the township ever got reimbursed for the cost of providing security for Sarah Palin and Patriots in the Park event and McClanahan said that the township has been paid.
Later he told the Independent that Americans for Prosperity, who asked the township for help with security, paid the bill and no money was taken out of the Wounded Warriors’ fund, as some had feared would happen.
McClanahan said barring any disasters between now and the end of the year, the budget is right on course.
Larry Fix asked about those who get paid for a full-time job with the township and also as a firefighter, which adds up to salaries over $100,000.
McClanahan said these are people who do two jobs in the same organization, with pay from two separate budgets under the Van Buren Township umbrella.
He said when the employee passes from his regular job to the new job, it comes under the Dual Assignment Cause in the federal Fair Standards Act and, “It’s mandated by the federal government and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
He said that includes paying the employee 80% of the pay for his initial job plus 20% of fire pay, plus time and a half for overtime.
He noted that procedure was in place before he was named director.
He said without the cross-trained people this year it would have been impossible to offer the 24-hour fire shifts.
There presently are seven blended rate employees, he said.
Fix said when the salaries are printed in the paper (Independent) each year, public opinion is influenced.
Fix said he understands the Fair Labor Law. He said at the last township board meeting the police department earned glowing praises for money being saved, but actually the cost was shifted to the fire department.
McClanahan said if the salaries were shown “bifurcated” people would understand the employees worked many hours for that pay. He said there was no shifting. He said, also, there have been some unusual occurrences on the police and fire sides this year.
“I’m in the business of providing services,” McClanahan said. “Who gets what is politics.”
Fix said people are concerned when they see public service employees making that kind of money.
Madigan asked about the $15,474.66 that was spent over budget in capital outlay.
McClanahan said the police budget was allocated $81,000 for patrol cars and then had to scurry to buy six in-car computers because the others didn’t work. It took an hour and a half to boot up, he said.
He said he convinced the board to allocate $15,000 for radios for six to seven cars. He said they also have to upgrade mobile radios.
Fire Department budget
The committee then discussed the $2 million fire department budget, with Chief Besson explaining they do the best that they can with fleet maintenance, which is now down to $17,000.
“Right now we’re on emergency status … fixing the trucks to work, saving money for the end of the year to buy 12 needed sets of turnout gear,” Besson said.
Madigan asked about the $30,000 Besson recently asked for from the Downtown Development Authority to fix the roof on Station #2. She asked if Station #1 had roof problems, too.
Besson said Station #1 does not need roof repair. He said he has checked and the Station #2 roof no longer is under warranty. He will be taking that report back to the DDA in his bid for the DDA to fund repairs.
McClanahan said as the fleet ages, the money needed to maintain the equipment increases. He said the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) comes out each year to inspect the vehicles and tells the township what it has to fix.
Besson said they have not completed all the repairs needed this budget year and will carry some repairs over to next year.
McClanahan said they try to keep a really close eye on the equipment. He said last year they were able to complete all the MDOT repairs and had a few dollars left over in that line item.
Delaney asked about whether the Hazmat cleanup at Ecorse and Beck was reimbursed by the farmer involved and Besson said he would check.
The repairs following the rear-ending of the fire truck on I-94 was paid for by the township’s insurance, McClanahan said.
Madigan asked if they had thought of having a fund to save for equipment replacements and McClanahan said he couldn’t discuss that until the budget sessions, which were the following week.
The $764,168 Dispatch budget was explained by McClanahan who said they had one full-time and one part-time employee resign and employees on maternity and medical leave, plus a disabled employee.
He said the concern is the wage line item because they were running in an overtime capacity.
“We provided the service, but it cost more,” McClanahan said.
He said he hired a full-time and part-time dispatcher and they are still in field training, which is done internally. Although there was $4,000 in the dispatch training line item, McClanahan said there was no outside training this year and the $4,000 is untouched.
Animal Control budget
The Animal Control department had a budget of $62,250 and Madigan asked about the $500 training line item that has not been used and McClanahan said there was some training available, “But I think he missed it. By the time we got information it was too late to process — an oversight on his part.”
The next meeting of the Public Safety Committee is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Nov. 7 at the VBT Hall. The regular Oct. 3 meeting was cancelled by Director McClanahan because he believed there would not be a quorum.
Present at the Oct 17 special meeting were a quorum of chairperson Diane Madigan and committee members Raymond Bailey, Olivia Bruce, and P. Ramone Crowe. Not present were vice chairperson Regina Miller, committee member Richard Wardwell and Trustee Phil Hart.