A moratorium was placed Tuesday night on police layoffs in Chesterfield Township, following approximately three hours of passionate talks between officials, residents and members of the force.
A majority of Board of Trustees agreed to Trustee David Joseph's proposal to hold off on the reductions for 90 days or less. The move, favored 5-2, means that the township will re-evaluate ways to combat a looming $1.9-million shortfall. And, that approximately 14-16 employees slated for pink slips on the force can keep their jobs for a while longer.
"I know there is a solution here; I know there is," said Joseph, noting comments and suggestions from seasoned police veterans and residents in the crowd of about 250.
Tax proposal may go back to voters
Many board and community members said the best solution would be to put the tax hike proposal back to voters, but this time with a sunset provision. Some critics of the November ballot didn't agree the tax collection should be indefinite--a stance township officials said Tuesday they understand.
Joseph rallied for the layoffs to become public discussion on the agenda that did not include any items about police, although residents and township officials expected the conversation to turn to police. The move to do so followed Police Chief Bruce Smith and Supervisor Michael Lovelock's comments that layoffs were expected soon. To many in the audience, the open talks were welcome and greeted with applause. The board, however, voted on the matter before comments were heard from residents.
Lovelock pointed out that he did not want to lay off police but the public rejection of the November tax increase led to the decision.
"You have to be fiscally responsible," Lovelock said.
"This is not a job for the meek and the mild," he added. "I haven't slept for a day and a half because I knew this meeting was coming."
Smith attended the meeting but declined to comment afterward to Patch.
Money needed, ideas welcome
Although Trustee Brian (Scott) DeMuynck and Joseph sparred over moratorium length, DeMuynck eventually agreed with the 90-days-or-less time frame. Trustee Hank Anderson, Clerk Cindy Berry and Treasurer Linda Hartman also voted in favor of it. Lovelock and Trustee Christine Bell voted against it.
"We need to come up with $1.9 million of new ideas," Hartman said. "There's nothing left to do but do another millage."
Bell said she supports the police department but it "seems like a mathematical fact of life" that the failed millage means staff reductions until more money comes in.
Eighty-two percent of the department's revenue goes to staff wages. There are about 52 employees on the force, according to the township.
Board, union and residents to collaborate
Officer Brian McNair, a township police union rep, said the union was approached by the chief with a proposal calling for 13 officers to be affected by a plan to reduce staffing--four of whom would have been moved to dispatch. When the union rejected that offer, 16 officers were then slated for pink slips, he said.
McNair and other police leaders offered to work with the board in attempt to save jobs and keep staffing levels intact as much as possible.
Many residents and community leaders spoke of collaborating to reach a common goal--avoiding the dissolution of the police department.
New Baltimore Police Chief Tim Wiley, who spoke of Chesterfield police's assistance after a medical scare, also offered to help.
"This is not a Chesterfield problem alone. This is a Bay-area problem," Wiley said.
Township resident Jan Uglis, who's also a former Chesterfield Township clerk, said the township should do everything in its power to avoid disbanding the force in favor of a Macomb County Sheriff's Office contract.
"I always said 'Our department looks good in blue' and I always said 'There ain't going to be brown in our town,'" she said, referring to the color of the Sheriff's Office uniforms.
As attendees left the municipal offices, township police blocked off Sugarbush in one direction while paramedics responded to a medical call at a nearby home.
Tell us in the comments' section below what you think about this issue.
See More on Patch
- Chesterfield Township to Hold Meeting on Police Budget
- Chesterfield Board Turns Down New Layoff Proposal
- Macomb Authorities: No Crime Committed in Chesterfield Township Vehicle Deal
- Chesterfield Invites Public to Police Layoff Talks
- Chesterfield Supervisor: 'We Have to Live Within Our Means' (VIDEO)