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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Command Performace : Public Safety Tells City Commission How They Do Business.

 In the City of Bloomfield Hills, the Public Safety Department which includes, police, fire, and first response medical (paramedical) is the proverbial sacred cow. The residents love it and insist they don't want anything to change. Some things however, like fire engines have to change. That's because they wear out. Public Safety Director, Mr. Richard Matott, also  known as "Chief" cited corrosion as the main culprit  and estimated the average life span of a fire engine as  as twenty years. The City has in it's fleet of fire engines two vehicles which were in put in to service in 1995 (now 16 going on 17 years old)  and another 1997 model. Recently a gasoline tank fell off a City fire engine and the city incurred  a $225 towing charge. The Chief's presentation was one of a series by Public Safety Officers  intended to tell the City Commission, who requested the information , "How we do business and  Why we do it the way we do."

It was the City's Commissions third, departmental  probe  into "What costs what and why it does."  Previously  the Commission had tackled function  of the City Manager and  Road Construction.The topic chosen  is often discussed in multiple meetings with the purpose being for the commission to learn what can be done to improve cost effectiveness. 

Central to City Commission's desire to find  efficient  cost saving solutions, was  the issue of overtime.  Is it more cost effective to pay overtime or hire more people ?  Could overtime costs be reduced by changing the  the length of work shifts  ? Lieutenant Terry McDonnell discussed the pros and cons of a 24 hour, 12, or 8 hour work shifts. Each would also require different staffing levels however  to main efficiency. The 24 hour one would mean  that  court time would not require overtime. Staff would always be available to help out in pinch and there would be time for on the job training. On the downside it's the least popular shift and if overtime is ever required it would be a killer. 12 hours means more time off but a longer than normal work day and court time may require overtime. 8 hours is normal but court could be overtime and rotation of shifts are hard on the body with midnight to 8am being the worst.
Lieutenant Noel Classon spoke about the use of motorcycles in police work and how they might relate to cost savings. The pluses of motor cycles are they navigate through traffic. They can also go off road to break up  that beer party at... uh Cranbrook ? Maintenance is minimum and there are no barriers between the police officer and the public.The drawbacks ? They are more hazardous, seasonal, can't carry prisoners, and does  not have the police computer on board.

Hiring was also  another area of concern. Do you hire part timers to save money and lose them to a full time opportunities  elsewhere or do you hire full time with more upfront cost ? City of Bloomfield Hills safety officers are triple trained to serve as police officers, firemen, and  paramedics. The training is extensive and rigorous. If you are hired, you are hired on probation. During the probationary period you are evaluated weekly. If your performance for a particular week is less than satisfactory you are required to repeat the assignment the following week. If you don't improve your performance you are dismissed. You have already signed waivers that waive all rights to object.It's a standard of excellence rarely found elsewhere and one in keeping with the high expectations of the residents of the city.

Hiring can be a problem. Currently the Public Safety Department is need of a  part time dispatcher.
While the requirements for a dispatcher are less stringent than that of a public safety officer certain skills like the ability to mentally juggle information is  required. "Say for example you get a call from a unit at Hickory Grove and Woodward"  the chief  said before listing the other  job specifications, and then asking where was it that the unit called from. Everybody knew it was Hickory Grove and Woodward. Yes the Chief admitted, but the commissioners who could remember  Hickory Grove and Woodward  were not taking  taking additional incoming calls or required to also know the location of other units. He also mentioned that a recent ad placement produced two good candidates who at the last moment chose to stay in school or pursue other opportunities.

None of which registered with Mayor Zambricki who said. "The unemployment rate (in the greater metropolitan area ) is 11%. We will find the right person and we will make the hire."

That is the attitude of Mayor Zambricki. It is not "can do" it is "will do" and "do it now." Like Mayor Kellet (2009-2010) and unlike Mayor McCready (2010-2011) Zambricki is an activist mayor. Kellet's passion was the building projects like the Plaza. Zambricki's passion is answers. He believes they are out there and his commission will find them.

In other City Business, the city approved a request of $14,000 for  turn out gear for the Department of Public Safety. Commissioner McClure asked if  competitive bids had been sought, and the Chief said they were  when the sequence of uniform replacements had first been put in motion years ago..The Turn out gear was the last of that  order and with it uniforms wouldn't be an issue for at least six years.

Commissioner McClure's and City Manager Jay Cravens' Woodward Avenue Tree Beautification Project will break ground with first plantings in October. Low Bidder KLM Landscape won the contract. This an on going project so contributions are still being sought. See July 13th Post.

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