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Posted on Thu, May 13, 2010 : 12:20 p.m.

Police and fire chiefs express concerns about looming cuts to public safety in Ann Arbor

By Ryan J. Stanton

After months of discussion, the Ann Arbor City Council stands poised to make a decision Monday on the city's budget for the next fiscal year.

And how council members vote ultimately will determine the fate of police and fire protection services starting in July.


Fire Chief Dominick Lanza said he's working under the pretense that cuts to the fire department are going to take effect in July.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Mayor John Hieftje said he's still hoping to avoid deep cuts. He and Council Member Margie Teall, D-4th Ward, plan to bring amendments forward.

"Our goal is to eliminate or at the least minimize any layoffs in police and fire," Hieftje said. "We will be asking council to support an amendment to the administrator's budget that will eliminate layoffs in the police department. We are still working on the details of the fire department section of the amendment, but we will surely ask council to support an amendment that keeps the fire stations open and maintains current response times and rescue capabilities in the event of a fire."

If the council can't come to agreement, City Administrator Roger Fraser's budget recommendations will stand. And that includes eliminating 20 positions in the fire department and 20 positions in the police department starting in July.

That's a scenario that would have major implications for public safety services in Ann Arbor, the city's police and fire chiefs both said this week.

Police Chief Barnett Jones said the cuts would take 12 sworn police officers out of service. That would reduce the number of officers assigned to traffic control from five to one and completely eliminate the department's five-member Community Response Unit, while the number of officers on general patrol would drop from 64 to 61.

"We will go from a proactive police department to a reactive police department," Jones said, noting he has worked to shift officers from desk jobs to patrol but is running out of officers to reassign.

The Fire Department

Fire Chief Dominick Lanza said he's working under the pretense that Fraser's recommended budget will take effect.

"And we're going to have to deal with the cuts that are recommended in the budget for this year," he said. "And in doing so, it is 20 full-time employee positions, one of which is a vacant position, so it's actually 19 persons. And those number of people would require at this time the closing of one fire station."

Lanza said much of what happens also depends on the outcome of collective bargaining, which is going on right now with the firefighters union.

"If we were forced to close that one fire station, my recommendation would be that we go to what's known in the business as a 'rolling blackout' in the fire department," Lanza said. "And what that is is rather than showing disparate coverage in specific areas of the city, we would always keep the central station open because that is the center of the city. And then on a rotating basis — either every 12 hours or every 24 hours, on a schedule — close a fire station."

The city has four fire stations in addition to the central station downtown, including one by Briarwood Mall, one by the University of Michigan, one by Arborland Mall and one on Jackson Avenue on the city's west side near I-94.

"What's going to happen if we close one of those fire stations is, on a given day, if the fire station in your neighborhood happens to be the one that's closed, you're going to experience a lengthier response time," Lanza said. "Fire multiplies very rapidly, and the quicker we can get there the more effective we are in stopping the loss, so in order not to — for lack of a better term — 'pick on your neighborhood,' we have to spread that risk equally throughout the community."

Lanza said residents could see insurance rates go up.

National and state standards for fire protection call for having 18 firefighters on the scene of a working fire within eight minutes, which some members of the fire department claim won't be met if the cuts go into effect.

"We currently have the ability to put 19 people at every fire scene on any given day," Lanza said. "That's as long as we only have one fire going. If we have two, we have to rely on assistance from other agencies that surround us."

Lanza said he supports the concept of regional cooperation on fire services, something Fraser also has championed. But he said it's less reliable when other communities surrounding Ann Arbor are stressed for resources.

"Ypsilanti Township just had a proposal passed by their council where they're going to be doing a buyout and reducing their workforce," Lanza said. "Ypsilanti city is in the process of looking at cuts also. Ann Arbor Township is not looking at cuts. However, their workforce is already so small. They only have one person per day on each of their two fire trucks, and then they have what's called 'paid on-call.' When the alarm comes in, those people are assumed to respond, but there's no guarantee. They have 40 of them and you could get 10 on a given day or you could get none."

If the fire department's numbers are cut back, Lanza said the city needs to make sure any mutual aid agreements are carefully crafted.

"I'm very concerned that the city of Ann Arbor, unless we plan it correctly ... we could come out on the short end of those kind of deals because everybody else is in even far worse condition than we are," he said. "Even if we reduce our workforce, others are going to be reducing. We're currently the largest fire department in Washtenaw County, and we still would be after reductions."

The Police Department

The Ann Arbor Police Department has been scaled back from 191 to 124 sworn officers since 2001 — a 35 percent reduction.

"There's been a lot of concern in the community that a reduction in force would result in insecurity for the community members," said Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward. "One particular concern I've heard voiced is that there would be a lack of response if people called the police and said there had been a break-in or there had been a robbery at their home."


Police Chief Barnett Jones said response times could be longer if police officers are laid off.

Ryan J. Stanton |

With the department scaled back, Jones said flexibility will be lost, and certain crimes will have to take priority over others. For example, if there are multiple calls for service at the same time, response times could be longer.

"If another big thing happens while we're handling the 'big thing,' we've got less officers to respond," he said. "Also note that (Community Response Unit) is gone, traffic is gone, so there's no officers filling the back door. I can attempt to spread them out as much as I can, but less officers mean longer response times."

Hieftje said he's interested in keeping the police department proactive instead of reactive, and that includes keeping CRU.

"I recall a few years ago when we had a problem, there were some people in town that were performing some muggings in the campus area," he said. "We put the CRU on that and, within just a couple of months, that was brought to a halt."

The City Council's ability to avoid some cuts to police and fire depends largely on whether the council accepts a $2 million transfer from the Downtown Development Authority. But the job eliminations in police and fire are targeted at trimming $3.6 million, so $2 million might not go as far as some hope.

"If the money is not approved, then we go through with the targeted reductions, which puts less police officers on the street," Jones said, noting there currently are as many as seven to 14 officers on patrol per shift.

Jones said the department also has 22 officers on special assignment. With the exception of those in traffic patrol and CRU, the rest currently don't face cuts. That includes three school liaison officers, two transport officers, two in-service detective officers, one officer assigned to the countywide narcotics team, one officer assigned to AATA, one property officer, one training officer and one court officer.

Jones said most crimes in Ann Arbor are crimes of opportunity, and with Ann Arbor being a "have" community, it's a target in Michigan's bad economy.

"We're a safe community, we're a great community," he said. "So people move here and they relax here, and they enjoy the lifestyle here. And that means that they don't lock their doors, they don't lock their cars, they don't put the garage door down.

"What we need to do is secure our community a little bit more, get the word out about locking the doors, cutting back the bushes, turning on some outside lights," he said. "And if we can keep the crimes of opportunity down to a minimum, we can make it safer in our community overall."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Fri, May 14, 2010 : 10:21 p.m.

In the end the decision on how many police are needed comes down what has been happening to the crime rate over the years. Last report showed it has been going down. So what is the problem?


Fri, May 14, 2010 : 9:59 p.m.

At the time the old A2 news said Oates left to take over a bigger department in a bigger city. Cities across Michigan are laying off cops and fire fighters. Maybe folks here didn't read the article, they said NO layoffs in the PD. For the FD no stations closing and no impact on response times. Seems like a very good outcome and without a tax increase.


Fri, May 14, 2010 : 3:18 p.m.

"When Dan Oates left because Roger Fraser would not give him the staff needed, he said that if he had had the staff, we could have ended those muggings almost immediately." I'm not trying to disagree just to disagree but what did you expect Oates to say? Other than "hit the lights and run it!"

Cendra Lynn

Fri, May 14, 2010 : 2:47 p.m.

John Heiftje is only partially remembering what happened with the street muggings several years ago. Dan Oates was still chief and fighting cuts to the police. We had both armed and unarmed muggings on the east side of campus. They began in May and continued through August. When Dan Oates left because Roger Fraser would not give him the staff needed, he said that if he had had the staff, we could have ended those muggings almost immediately. The problem was insufficient numbers of police. Now Roger Fraser has cut both police and fire to sub-standard levels. We are all in danger. Cutting bushes and turning on lights, as Barnett Jones recommends, won't do much to prevent crime. In 2000 we had a Crime Prevention unit of 27. That unit no longer exists. We've also had one fire-related death and can expect others with present staffing. We already know where sufficient money to fund public safety resides in City coffers. It's time for the Council to stand up, demand fiscal honesty, and re-direct money to public safety.


Fri, May 14, 2010 : 12:34 p.m.

Two ideas: 1) Make the DDA transfer funds to GF for police/fire protection in the DDA zone (without making the city give up its lead role in developing surface parking lots). New downtown developments dont add to GF tax revenue; it goes to the DDA. However, downtown residents (who remember, dont pay GF taxes) demand police and fire protection. They basically get a free ride on public safety, and that seems unfair. 2) Change to a defined-contribution plan.Retirement takes about 25% of the entire police budget (Retirement Contribution: $2.6m; Retiree Medical Insurance $2.2m; VEBA: $1.2m in a FY11 budget of $24.7m), and for fire, its about 28% of the $12.3m budget. Also, these costs increased from $5.3m in FY08 to a budgeted $6m in FY11 for police, and for fire, they increased from $3.3m in FY08 to a budgeted $3.4m. Since there are less police officers and firefighters than in FY08, the per-person expense is increasing faster than 3%, which is the annual average of property tax revenue increases over the past 8 years [the median is about 4.5%]. This means the 2nd largest portion of the budget is increasing faster than tax revenues and will take an ever larger portion unless it is changed. Last, without anyone knowing the details of Tealls budget amendment, can anyone say if its a good idea? If it contains one-time transfers instead of structural fixes, wont next year be the same as this year?

Blue Eyes

Fri, May 14, 2010 : 10:45 a.m.

Let's start saving $ by eliminating City-paid food for ALL City meetings, including interviews and meet and greets! The amount paid is astronomical. I'm surprised no one has filed a FOIA for that yet!


Fri, May 14, 2010 : 9:58 a.m.

BornNRaised.Please do not include me in the group of uninformed people.The city needs to laying off police and firemen.To many questions are not being asked like how can Mayor hold two positions within the same City should not be permitted at all.I am sure their are other departments that have way to much excess that could be cut from the city budget instead of always police and fire. Come November We need a whole new city council and Mayor residents vote for change in November.Mr Mayor where are the Jobs it is time for you and the d.d.a to stop building parking garages and rethink your priorties because they are very mixed up and continue to be.


Fri, May 14, 2010 : 9:29 a.m.

@Dalouie, Let me educate you on a couple of your facts that you have skewed. 1) The FD took a 4% pay cut to hold off the layoffs of 13 firefighters. They were told one month before Jan 1st that they would be getting cut. A nice Christmas present from the city. As soon as the FD agreed to it, and before the ink was even dry, Fraser came back and then said he's now decided to take 7 more from the FD than he originally said. But you expect the FD and other groups to give MORE after a snake-in-the-grass move like that. People like to complain about PA312 and how it focuses on "negotiating in good faith". But somehow residents believe the politicians that the Unions are always making out on it 100% of the time. Do you call what Fraser did 'good faith'? Waiting to get what he wanted to he could then stab them in the backs and take more? 2) Your 'board of retired firemen' comment is a good theory. One you might want to look into. Totally absurd, but you should look into it to get your facts straight. Look up NFPA. Google that and how many firefighters are required on a fire scene. Folks, this is a great place for commentary, but for the love of god, have some type of knowledge of what you're talking about before you just start banging on keys.


Fri, May 14, 2010 : 7:03 a.m.

Look what just happened in Ypsi! The FD gave concessions and there will be no layoffs. I know, the FD gave up a little in A2 but they still have way better $$ and bennies than other FF's in this area and state. Besides, doesn't anyone here read what Mr. Stanton wrote? It sounds like Teall and the mayor are going to save a lot of jobs. No layoffs in the PD and layoffs "minimized" in the FD. I think the standard you are talking about is the one set by the retired firemen on a board. I doubt there is any FD in Michigan that does not have fewer firefighters than they used to. How can the FD be understaffed if they keep the stations open and don't impact response time?


Fri, May 14, 2010 : 4:29 a.m.

@belboz - Where do you get your information that the FD is already overstaffed? The FD is already below national standards as far as staffing goes and this is before we loose 20% more.


Thu, May 13, 2010 : 11:11 p.m.

I am blown away that the residents are not seeing the wasteful spending going on by the city.And Bye the way the city council and the Mayor are only part time employee's anyway police and fireman are not.WAKE UP PEOPLE.Also ask yourself how the mayor can be mayor and on the d.d.a board. seems shady to me.


Thu, May 13, 2010 : 11:08 p.m.

The city is still wasting Money it does not have period.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, May 13, 2010 : 10:29 p.m.

If you have a question for the Ann Arbor City Council, Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, will join CTN for this month's edition of "Ward Talk." Watch on CitiTV 19 on Wednesday, May 19, from 7 p.m.-7:30 p.m. The studio line is 734.794.6155. You also can e-mail your questions to Visit for more.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, May 13, 2010 : 10:28 p.m.

The $2 million from the DDA is essentially a pre-payment to the city for working out a new parking agreement, which could transfer downtown parking enforcement duties from the police department to the DDA. The police chief said this week that's not an option he preferred. "If they're going to absolve safety services of the revenue portion of that, then I believe it can be done," he said. "Did I want it to be done that way? No. I believe we can honor the DDA and do what they want us to do by virtue of sitting down and asking our people to do what they want to do. But that's a business decision that may be made above my grade."


Thu, May 13, 2010 : 10:22 p.m.

Ed: It's in the article, Teall and the mayor will be asking council to support an amendment to "eliminate layoffs in the PD." It will come from the $2 million in parking money.

Dominick Lanza

Thu, May 13, 2010 : 9:43 p.m.

At least the Fire Chief layed it on the line if there must be cuts then everybody will have their turn at less service. Not like years ago when they closed the fire station on Packard that neighborhood has ben getting the short end on thier taxes for years. Unless I missed something I havent heard that the Cops are covered? Who said that where did the money come from. And to the genius who thinks the fire department is over staffed I hope you dont have a fire when they are out putting out the one that came in first. Roger Fraser is behind consolidated services of all types not just Fire maybe instead of throwing mud at him we need to look into it makes sense to me.


Thu, May 13, 2010 : 8:12 p.m.

Born: Maybe you haven't been following all this. Municiple budgets are restricted, money that was collected for one thing, say the parks millage, can't be used to pay for the Fire Department, it would be illegal. They can't just "vote down the cuts" the money has to come from somewhere so they have to find something else to cut or a way to raise money. They are working to have a balanced budget. They have the money from the parking meters now and that $2 million will really help but it will only stretch so far. They have the jobs in PD covered and now the mayor and Teall are working to save as many jobs as they can in the Fire Department.


Thu, May 13, 2010 : 7:57 p.m.

It is their job to be concerned. Are they concerned enough to take a pay cut? It seems these comments are scare tactics to help enforce their point. I believe the Fire Department is already over staffed and responding to many issues that they don't necessarily have the need / responsibility to. The Police department has time for speed traps, then they don't seem to be overly busy. If the city cannot afford them, then the cuts must be made. More is always better than less, but that does not mean we cannot do with less.


Thu, May 13, 2010 : 5:59 p.m.

More political crap from Teall. She's up for reelection so instead of simply voting down the cuts she gets the other knuckleheads to "support" her resolution. Way to show you care about this city... more like your own reelection.


Thu, May 13, 2010 : 5:32 p.m.

It sounds like the mayor and Teall are asking the right questions and coming up with solutions. No layoffs in the PD. Good! They are still working on the FD but keeping the response times and stations open is great. BTW: The mayor and Council Members, except Anglin and Kunsulman who refused, wrote checks back to the city for 3% of their pay, just what they asked employees to give up. They don't get benefits.


Thu, May 13, 2010 : 5:20 p.m.

I got this from arborweb so not my fault if it's wrong. "It has eleven members: two from each of the citys five wards, plus the mayor. Ward representatives are paid $15,450/year....The mayor's annual salary is $41,200." didn't have totals for "so called" council members but I assume these are the same. So what do you want to do? Let's get wacky and make council members take a 10% pay cut. I think I can handle the maths there since there are 10 of them, now we've got $15,450 dollars extra; let's put that in the pot. Now hey, everyone likes to rip into the mayor here, so let's be funny and take 20% from him. That's easy math but I'm not good at math so let's say that's 9K a year. Now all together we have (luckily my poor math skills are working in your favor!) $25,000. Ok what position are you going to fill with that? How is that going to help save jobs for cops and Fire Fighters? I probably missed something obvious so just tell me so I can get on board with you. Do they get health or retirment benifits I'm not factoring into this?


Thu, May 13, 2010 : 4:56 p.m.

I'm not refering to the article, I'm refering to your post that calls for city council members pay to be reduced in order to help the money issues with safety services. As I stated before, they don't make enough money to make a dent. Well at least that's my opinion from what i know...I could be wrong. So tell me how much you want to save, or re-use for anything else. How much money are you going to get from them? Bottom line it for me so I know how much we're talking about.


Thu, May 13, 2010 : 4:50 p.m.

Lokalisierung. Are you kidding me with your this has nothing to do with anything. What articles are you reading.The wasteful spending has to stop sometime.


Thu, May 13, 2010 : 3:44 p.m.

"It is time for the so called City council to take more of a paycut and stop cutting the police and fire positions." These things are not directly related as stated here again and again. They do not make enough money to save these jobs you are talking about. Take money away from Parks & other things, and better spending I agree with, but this is just rabble.


Thu, May 13, 2010 : 2 p.m.

Residents of Ann Arbor. Ask yourselves how the city can continue to spend money when the city is deep debt and yet it continues to spend money it does not have then when the can't come with a budget the city council lay's off police and fire personal. When the city can't even pay their bills. what should be done is stop paying the Mayor and the city coucil and stop building new parking lots and a new city hall. I sure would like to know how the city can continue to do this what a sad way of running a city.I can't spend money I do not have how can the City do it. How about focusing on bring in new jobs to the city Mr wasteful spending Mayor. It is time for a complete change in the city council. And stop the wasteful spending.


Thu, May 13, 2010 : 1:33 p.m.

Dear AA taxpayer... We would like to express our deepest regrets for your loss. The recent budget has not allowed us to maintain enough safety personnel to adequately protect your family and property. Please try to explain this to your insurance agent and to your children, we are sure that they will understand eventually... P.S. Don't forget to write that tax check asap, we have contractors to pay. And no, your tax bill is not lower even though your services will be less. Sincerely, Roger Fraser & The City Counsil


Thu, May 13, 2010 : 1:20 p.m.

Oh I forgot $100,000+ consultants too


Thu, May 13, 2010 : 1:17 p.m.

People just are'nt smart enough to get it.The more art the more green belts and underground parking spaces will help elimiate fires and crime.Wake up people!


Thu, May 13, 2010 : 1:10 p.m.

It is time for the so called City council to take more of a paycut and stop cutting the police and fire positions.gettin old i full agree with what you have said. The so called leadership in the city has to go away it is time for real change in the city.

gettin old

Thu, May 13, 2010 : 12:33 p.m.

The Ann Arbor leadership/City Council should take a another look at what they are charged to do... They primary function is to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens. Perhaps they should spend fewer dollars on things like the green street fair and concentrate on public safety and the infrastructure that is quickly crumbling.