By Rene Cizio, The News-Herald
PUBLISHED: March 30, 2008
ALLEN PARK — The city has officially pulled out of any further talks on consolidating fire services with four other Downriver communities
Rumors that the consolidation proposal was fading have surfaced in recent months.
After nearly a year of discussions, members of the Downriver Fire Authority decided last month that they would not hold any more meetings.
However, there were no formal resolutions to disband.
"While there are not any meetings currently scheduled, the group has not been officially dissolved and we may be called upon again in the future to meet again," Fire Chief Mark Hogrebe said in a letter to the City Council.
The group, an offshoot of the Downriver Community Conference, consisted of fire chiefs and city officials from Allen Park, Lincoln Park, Melvindale, Southgate and Wyandotte. It was formed to discuss the feasibility of consolidating fire protection among the cities into one authority.
(The DCC is a consortium of area communities that seeks grants and other funding.)
The plan was being considered to save money, which would come primarily from administrative cuts and equipment sharing by having a single authority that would work to protect all five cities.
There still would have been at least one station in each city, and the communities would have shared high-cost items such as ladder trucks, which might sit unused for long periods of time.
"I have been part of these conversations for a while now, and it is my belief that they are not productive and will not result in any great savings to our city," Hogrebe said.
The state government has offered grants and encouragement for consolidation. It is the opinion of some that equipment sharing is the wave of the future. Many communities' departments of public service have agreed to collaborate on purchases such as salt and road patch to save money.
Hogrebe doesn't believe there would be a savings with fire consolidation, though.
"Any time that I, or any other member of the administration, has to put into this project at this point is, in my opinion, a waste of time, resources and tax dollars," he said.
Similar sentiments have been voiced by some in regard to a Downriver central dispatch, which would involve emergency 911 dispatchers being in one place instead of each police station having its own.
Allen Park officially ended its involvement with that plan last month.
"It's not a bad idea to try to come up with ways to save money," Councilman Kyle Tertzag said. "It's just that this particular version didn't work."
According to members of the fire authority, the group broke into committees to address individual aspects and provide reports. However, officials often had little or nothing to report.
"One (group) can't work without the other progressing," Allen Park fire union representative John Barstad said after the last meeting. "One hand didn't know what the other was doing. ... It just kind of crumbled upon itself."
Allen Park and Melvindale have a pact that they will provide mutual aid to each other and assist on fire calls. They do this automatically without receiving an emergency call.
Hogrebe has said that mutual aid has been very successful.
"I want to make sure that no one confuses my request for withdrawal from the consolidation talks as any negativity about (Downriver Mutual Aid)," Hogrebe said.