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Posted on Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 5:55 a.m.

Ypsilanti City Manager: Restructuring, redevelopment focus of 5-year budget plan

By Katrease Stafford

City Manager Ralph Lange said his 5-year budget plan for Ypsilanti does not include layoffs, but he is examining the possibility of merging departments and cross-training city employees to do various tasks in order to save money and maintain services.


City Manager Ralph Lange

Lange said by January 2013, the city will lose a total of 15 full-time employees who account for "high end, high dollar" positions. Lange said so far the city has replaced three of the 15 positions, but they all won't be filled.

"That's why we're trying to look at cross-training and merging departments," Lange said. "That is not limited to public safety... We're looking to implement that in the entire city operations.

"... (With) the number of people leaving, we can't do business as usual. (We have to) do a lot more cross-training all the way around so one person can do numerous jobs and they support each other."

As part of the ongoing discussions of restructuring, previously reported a proposal was being weighed to possibly combine the city's police and fire departments into a single department of public safety to combat rising expenses and shrinking funds.

The proposal would cross-train police officers and firefighters to do both jobs.

Lange declined to specify the additional departments being looked at for a possible merger.

Lange said the plan is still in the works but he expects city council members to be able to review it before the special meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, when it will be presented.

"We're still assembling the information," Lange said. "We were dealt a very unusual circumstance in the period of one calendar year from January 2012 to January 2013."

Lange said losing the 15 employees made a difference when staff began examining the city's budgets.


Water Street's redevelopment will have a large impact on Ypsilanti's future, according to City Manager Ralph Lange.

Tom Perkins | For

The positions Lange referred to are the previous city manager, four patrol officers, a fire lieutenant, two police sergeants, a police lieutenant, deputy clerk, three firefighters, and a fire captain.

"It just completely changed the dynamic," he said. "With that many people gone, we went into an analysis of how we deliver services in each department and how we can do it with lesser people. Even if you replace the positions, they’re not receiving the same benefits pay or package, so you would save money."

Lange said altogether, the base salary of all 15 employees account for more than $1 million. That number does not include benefits or pensions.

"The city without laying off anyone had a reduction of $1 million," he said.

While Lange has no plans to lay any off, he said the city is facing a serious situation. "The garbage fund has a serious problem," he said. "It has no fund balance so that needs to be addressed. The plan is to not include the general fund subsizing other funds."

"We’re hoping we can generate additional revenue and save money.... The issues are debt and overhead and that’s what we're trying to address. Will there never be another layoff? I can't say that, but that is not a part of the plan as it now stands."

Lange said his plan focuses on the importance of redevelopment of key properties and areas of the city.

"The goal isn’t just to provide city services, but to foster the redevelopment and construction of pretty big chunks of property," he said.

Lange will target redeveloping the Water Street property and other key areas.

The city assembled the 38-acre Water Street property about 9 years ago with a plan to create a mixed-use residential project. But it hasn't been able to find developers for the property.

A proposed Eastside Recreation Center, which would be on 8 acres of the property, will serve as an anchor tenant for future developments and be an economic growth driver, officials said.

"We have a lot of land that has the potential for redevelopment," he said.

The 5-year plan, according to Lange, will give the city a "rational" amount of time to redevelop Water Street.

"I don't think anyone thinks Water Street will ever be to the point it can pay for itself, but the redevelopment of Water Street will have a big influence on our debt schedule."

Ypsilanti must pay $30 million on its Water Street bond debt and continue to make payments through 2031. Its annual payments will grow to $1.7 million annually by 2015, and the city currently has $2.6 million set aside to pay down the debt.

Lange said the city may look at possibly trying to reschedule the debt payments, but that cannot happen until May 2016.

"There's a lot of reasons to make sure we are solvent through the next five to seven years," Lange said. " No one wants to invest in a place where they’re not sure if they’re going to be in business next year to provide a certain level of services and still stay solvent."

Lange said he will not ask council to vote on the plan, but he wanted to provide them an updated look at budgets that have changed much over time.

"The city has a very, very difficult circumstance, but the goal was to line it up so that we still provide the services," he said. "There was concern that the city would go out of business or have a receiver and one of my primary goals was to make sure that didn’t happen. The big part is the redevelopment and reinvestment in bringing a lot of dollars back into the city. That does not happen overnight."

Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for her at or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.



Tue, Oct 30, 2012 : 12:24 a.m.

"With that many people gone, we went into an analysis of how we deliver services in each department and how we can do it with lesser people." I sincerely hope that he meant to say "fewer" people. One should not trust lesser people to do the job.

Megan Turf

Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 4:09 p.m.

PART 2: What about response times? The YFD is out the door immediately already in gear. Police officers are going to have to change on site. How much time will be lost? How many lives will be lost because they're securing their gun belt in trunk and yanking out their coveralls and oxygen tanks? How much property damage costs will there be because the city wanted to try and save a few bucks. They'll lose any savings once people start suing. And what about vacation and sick time? We're not going to be saving any money if we're paying police more to do the fire department's job and people time and a half just to cover someone else's shift. Overtime is expensive and it's cheaper to have 10 employees on straight time than 8 and pay the necessary overtime. As far as Monroe, the size of the city doesn't matter (and btw, Monroe is 20K, where Ypsi is 20K + another 20K for EMU). It's the calls for service that have to be answered that matter. The YPD takes a lot of freaking calls. Think they're going to sneak in fire calls while dealing with the bs they already deal with? They already prioritize calls and don't even get to some of them for days because of cuts in personnel. What are they going to do now? Push even more types of calls to "tomorrow" so they manage to get in the fire calls? This is a bad, bad, bad idea. They should look into regionalization which is what Ichesco suggested on NPR this morning. They should say to the fire departments in the area you're all going through this. What suggestions do you have? Oh, wow, think the Fire Chief might know what he's talking about regarding staffing and costs and property damage costs?? I trust Ichesco over some city manager who's only goal is the bottom line. It should be the safety of our citizens.

Megan Turf

Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 4:07 p.m.

PART 1: What isn't mentioned here is that i've actually heard talk of taking the yfd down to 2-3 per shift and using the officers as the firefighters and just keeping the yfd as admin and supervisors. Think about it - what money is there to save if police are trained as firefighters and take on firefighter shifts separate from police shifts? None. They're still paying for staff. What they're talking about is having cops on duty as cops respond to fires as firefighters. Not training cops to be firefighters on separate shifts. I dk about firefighters, but cops get paid by the hour. Walker is salaried, but no one else is. They are all by the hour. And the minute their shift is up and they're still working on something? Overtime. Think we're going to save money by sending cops to fires? Not going to happen. And as far as public safety goes, it's not uncommon to have multiple public safety calls at one time. What are we going to do if a fire comes in at the same time the 4 cops on duty are busy elsewhere? Per the article above, the 2 supervisors aren't legally enough personnel to do anything. They'd just stand there and watch the building burn. Does a fire take precedence over an assault? Yes? No? Only if someone is inside? What if we don't know if someone is inside? Assume there isn't? What if the assault in progress just civil disagree between neighbors v. possible violent assualt? What if the wrong call is made and if the officer had stayed to see the original police call through someone might not have gotten hurt but someone made the call to tell them to go to the fire instead? Choosing between police calls and fire calls is not a good idea. We need two separate departments and separate personnel and enough in each department to keep us safe.

Andrew Jason Clock

Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 3:15 p.m.

Its refreshing to have someone in Ypsilanti city government who is finally admitting that we are way past the point where the sale of Water Street will equal what we owe on it. That hasn't been plausible since about year two of the project. Admitting that we need to get the best we can WITHIN REASON for that property will go a long, long way in getting the city on the right path. Hopefully, council is paying attention. As for a reduction in services, anybody with some sort of critical thinking skills knew this was coming, despite the arguments of the anti-tax folk. I'm not bitter, because the anti-tax folks have a point, we are already one of the highest taxed cities in Michigan. Raising taxes again would have done nothing to increase economic development, our only real shot at getting out of this mess. Public Safety departments, the merging of police and fire services, are working across the state of Michigan. It can work here too, provided a proper balance of service is struck. From what I can tell, that balance means the keeping the minimum number of firefighters on staff at all times to enter a fire, a minimum number of police to patrol, and a group of public safety officers who go where they are needed; police service most of the time, firefighting when there is a situation serious enough to warrant back up to the dedicated firefighters. The City of Monroe does it with a 15 person FD and 15 public safety officers, and around 20 police. Very similar size city and very similar public safety staffing numbers compared to Ypsi. I find the public safety concept much less scary than loosing street cleaning or trash pick-up. I live in the downtown area, and most of my neighbor's trash cans are stuffed full every week. The stench and sight of rotting garbage are not going to help attract anyone to any community. If we're going to fix Ypsi, its going to be all about cutting where we can and adding to our tax base in any way we can, other than raising taxes.

Megan Turf

Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

Do not cross train police and fire. If my house catches on fire and the YPD has to choose between an assault in progress and my kitchen and i end up with more property damage than i would have, had the YFD existed, don't think i'm not suing the city for my losses. Someone on another page suggested less frequent trash pick up. Every other week, once a month. Businesses obviously couldn't do that, but residential could. I only generate enough trash for once a month anyway, but i want my damn fire department. And i want them staffed with real firefighters, trained to put out fires. Not someone who's main job is something else and they took a hose holding class six months before. Maybe Lange can put in some hours at the fire department cross training himself there so he can see what they do and see that it would be much better to look at regionalization instead. And maybe get EMU to pony up some $$ if they still aren't. And lastly, since i voted for both tax options, i would like my name and address by the YFD dispatch so that if a call for me and a call for a person who voted against the taxes comes in at the same time, they can come to my house first.


Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 5:29 p.m.

"And maybe get EMU to pony up some $$ if they still aren't. And lastly, since i voted for both tax options, i would like my name and address by the YFD dispatch so that if a call for me and a call for a person who voted against the taxes comes in at the same time, they can come to my house first." How about...if the state doesn't pay (for EMU), then they don't get service.


Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 1:12 p.m.

"I don't think anyone thinks Water Street will ever be to the point it can pay for itself, but the redevelopment of Water Street will have a big influence on our debt schedule." You can say that again, Ralph. Water Street development will have a big influence on our debt schedule, especially if we borrow a bunch of money to build a rec center that pays no taxes. We have to compete with A2, Pittsfield, and others for decent, taxpaying citizens and how does this administration propose to do it: Build a money pit of a rec center in a city where many people cannot afford to pay for it and HOPE that it will bring in more affluent people. I figure affluent people, once they hear of this rec center, will be drawn here in droves to our smooth roads, crime-free streets, and stellar schools, our low property taxes and.., Oh wait, reality called and informed me we have NONE of those things. What exactly are the affluent going to be drawn here for again? Maybe they can live in Hamilton Crossing, the former Park View projects that our mayor thinks its such a good idea to renovate. Somehow I don't think the affluent will enjoy having Section 8 residents mixed with people who have to pay for their own home. Perhaps we can allow our current residents to use their Section 8 vouchers and food stamps to pay for their rec center membership, because seriously, that is the only way the majority of residents around here will be able to pay for it. When such a significant proportion of our local population is on public assisstance the last thing we need is to spend a bunch of public money on a building of limited realistic use.


Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

The proposed rec center will be paid for by the county, not the city:


Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

You do realize that the whole county will pay for the rec center, not just Ypsi, right? It's coming out of a county-wide millage that Ypsi residents will be paying for whether the rec center gets built or not.