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Posted on Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Hybrid police and fire department projected to save Ypsilanti $2.1M, add 8 new officers

By Katrease Stafford


City Manager Ralph Lange said the city is moving forward with the hybrid police and fire department.

Courtney Sacco |

The city of Ypsilanti is projecting it will save $2.1 million over the next five years with the creation of a hybrid police and fire department, which City Manager Ralph Lange said is a necessity in order to remain solvent.

Documents sent to the Michigan Department of Treasury show the city will hire eight new public safety officers over the next three years and 13 existing officers will be trained in firefighting duties through 2016.

The city of Ypsilanti has applied to receive $943,480 through the Competitive Grant Assistance Program from the state of Michigan. If received, the funds will go toward the creation of the hybrid department.

"I think the position is we’re going with the hybrid public safety," Lange said. "That’s where we’re going. It’s not just about police and fire. For the city to be successful, I have to work with council to make sure the city is literally one integrated unit."

Separate from the possible grant, the city is set to receive $903,474 through the state's Economic Vitality Incentive Program. Of that number, $301,158 is for the city's consolidation efforts.

From 1977 to 2014, the documents show the city has saved close to $21 million through various consolidation and collaboration efforts.

"Given the economic circumstances in the state, all local governments are driven to find ways to save money, just to stay solvent," Lange said. "It's something that I've done my whole career and it was part of the five-year recovery plan that was backed up by the SEMCOG management review. It's just a necessity when you have less revenue for the general fund."

In February, the city sent compliance forms to the Michigan Department of Treasury for the EVIP program, outlining its consolidation efforts.

The documents state the city will spend approximately $738,480 over the next four years to train new and existing officers. The city believes it will find about $210,315 in short-term savings in one year or less and save $2,103,153 over the next five years.

"The goal is to obtain a more efficient workforce by ultimately placing more police officers on patrol and increasing the city's ability to provide adequate staffing levels to meet fire and medical emergencies," Lange wrote to the treasury.

Lange said the beginning of combining the two departments will be to consolidate the police and fire administration under one team and one director.

"The value of that is significant," Lange said. "That can't happen until we pick a new fire chief and that is moving along."

Thumbnail image for ralphlange.jpg

City Manager Ralph Lange

Lange said he will likely select the new fire chief by the end of March, but declined to say who the finalists are or how far the pool of applicants have been narrowed down.

Lange previously told that Police Chief Amy Walker is a likely candidate to head the entire hybrid department.

Lange is also in the middle of collective bargaining with the various unions within the fire and police departments. Lange said the Police Officers Association of Michigan contract negotiations are moving along well, but the fire negotiations are moving "very slowly."

"I would feel very confident that before the end of the year, we'll have some measure of public safety," Lange said. "For this to really work efficiently, the POAM needs to get settled and the deputy police chief was a key component and the other is picking fire chief."

Lange said the city will work with the Command Officers Association of Michigan to revisit their contract and "deal with a few things."

"It's very important for the COAM and the POAM to mesh together," Lange said. "I believe all of that is possible, but the final thing would be when does the fire contract get settled and I'm not willing to make any comment on that."

When asked whether the city can move forward with the hybrid department without settling the fire contract, Lange said the administration portion of the model could be completed.

"Can we do the PSO officers? That's a matter of debate and a legal question not resolved," Lange said.


The chart shows the projected costs to cross-train police officers and firefighters.

SEMCOG report

In the documents sent to the state treasury, the city wrote that another potential consolidation could have been a potential fire authority between the city, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti Township and Pittsfield Township.

According to the documents, the municipalities met four times last year to talk about ways to forge a collaboration that could have potentially led to a regional fire department.

"If we just gave the fire department away, it would not be the same," Lange said.

Fire Department Union President Ken Hobbs said he and other Ypsilanti firefighters are still in support of the authority. Retired Ypsilanti fire Chief Jon Ichesco heavily pushed for regionalization.

"In our mind, it would have been the perfect time," Hobbs said. "... We're not in support of a plan that's going to eliminate us."

The city has effectively "put on hold" the fire authority as it explores the hybrid department, but if it is determined the model isn't feasible, Ypsilanti will return to the possibility of creating an authority. The authority would save the city $689,808.

However, the city outlined in the documents that a fire authority will require an agreement between policy makers, labor unions and administration.

"Members of the proposed authority continue to fail to successfully navigate these three issues," Lange wrote.

Hobbs said the nearly $1 million grant is not a sure thing yet for the hybrid model and believes the city shouldn't depend on it as a source to cover the costs.

"We always apply for a SAFER grant and say, 'you can’t count this money until you receive it,'" Hobbs said. "Right now it's just a request, so basing everything on a request, how do you come up with the $33,000 per officer to cross train them to do fire work? If you don’t get the grant, what's your plan after that?"

According to Lange, the model will allow the city to provide the necessary level of public safety at a cost that will not severely hamper the city's budget.

"While not ideal, it is the best solution given the city's public safety needs and financial capabilities," Lange wrote.

Lange said the city will continue to look at other ways to consolidate in different areas to save more money and become more efficient.

"We’re here not just to balance the budget, but deliver critical and essential services to the citizens," Lange said. "It's one thing to save money, but you have to still deliver services and we have to have the best use of employees."

Whether it's internal or external consolidation efforts, the city is looking at multiple possibilities.

"We are going to continually do this and my emphasis as long as we work with council will be internal consolidation that really allows service to be delivered at same or reduced cost," Lange said. "There's still a lot that can be done on that and we’re going to work really hard to accomplish all of these things. I'm very excited to have the opportunity to do these things."

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



Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 3:54 p.m.

I really don't like this. If my house is on fire, I want someone who decided to run into burning buildings for a living to come when I call. Likewise, if my house is being burgled, I want someone who decided to deal with criminals for a living to come when I call. I don't think that is too much to ask of a city. I also hope that the city has a long-term plan for what happens when we have enough money to have separate police and fire departments again. On a side note - does anyone know where Lange lives? Because if it's not in Ypsi, then who is he to make these types of life altering calls?


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 4:36 p.m.

I live five minutes from the Ypsilanti City Hall too, but I live in the township. Living five minutes from City Hall ? living in the city.

Katrease Stafford

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 4:10 p.m.

Hi sesomai, Lange said a few months ago that he lives with a friend five minutes away from City Hall and spends four nights a week in the city. I believe his family is still located outside of the state though.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 2:45 p.m.

Look at the bright side. If you get stopped for a traffic citation in Ypsi and your car happens to burst into flames, there should be no need to wait for the fire dept to show up.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.

Rural Twp Volunteer Fire Dept model: A couple of certified firefighters (Chief and Driver) at the Fire Barn, keeping the trucks gassed-up, etc. AND a group of volunteers scattered around the Twp ready to respond when they get the call on their cell phone. The two firefighters at the Fire Barn drive to the fire and meet-up with the volunteers. The City of Ypsilanti proposes to go back to the 1950's Twp Volunteer Fire "Dept" model. This poses the question: Is the City of Ypsilanti in the process of devolving into a rural township? Meanwhile thousands of students in the EMU dormitories wonder. Like Univ Mich Ann Arbor, EMU administration couldn't care less.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 2:03 p.m.

I have a question... Mutual aid agreements…How will YFD/PSO be able to respond to it's mutual aid partners with sufficient personnel and resources? Mutual aid is meant to be a quid pro quo, not a supplement of "weaker" departments by "stronger" departments (I only write in terms of numbers, not in quality or competence). If there is a call for Mutual Aid, will the PSO's leave their police work to respond to the fire? What is they are "tied up" on an accident, crime in progress, etc... Does this PSO plan have any impact on existing Mutual Aid?


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 3:30 p.m.

Katrease, My concern is that "mutual aid is part of these discussions but no decision has been made yet". It appears that the PSO decision has been made, but that the details of implementation are still under discussion. How do you recommend such a sweeping change, without answering the questions regarding major ramifications.

Katrease Stafford

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 2:36 p.m.

Great questions, Ben. This was also a concern of outgoing Chief Jon Ichesco and one that firefighters have expressed as well. In 2011, the department responded to 600 fire and 1,566 medical emergencies. Of the 600 fire emergencies, 30 were mutual aid assists to other departments. I've been told mutual aid is part of these discussions, but no decision has been made yet.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.

The emperor has spoken and it seems that he has no use for the opinions of the experts (current police and fire personell) until after he fully flushes out his pet project.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 12:20 p.m.

Save compared to what? Is this like saying that I just saved $50 on the new suit I bought for $100? I believe the answer should be I only had to spend $100 for a new suit. I did not save anything! I had to spend money to get a suit. How do we know that this is not fuzzy math? I would love to see a full budget versus revenue for this same period of time so the voters can see for themselves if this is real or not. Revenue projections are always suspect as calculated by government employees and school boards. Based on our experience to date - this is fuzzy math and we are headed to insolvency. Go figure!

Katrease Stafford

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 2:30 p.m.

Goober, I would also like to see the full budget for the hybrid model. However, with the contract negotiations still going on, some of the elements of the "hybrid" seem to be changing over time. When it becomes available, I'll be sure to share it with any additional information I receive.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 12:12 p.m.

This is a bad idea. It would be one thing if Lange were ignoring the firefighters at his own peril, but he's ignoring them at everyone's peril. Has anyone looked at how much it would cost to break apart this "hybrid" model when it fails and the city needs to fall back to the regional fire authority? It's unfortunate that Lange has decided that this is where he wants to plant his flag. The people who are actually required to do the work don't support him, and the people who pay his salary will soon follow.

Glen S.

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 11:59 a.m.

This is a bad idea. Ypsilanti residents need and deserve to have both a fully-functioning police department and fire department. While we're at it, we also need to re-examine the decision to join the regional "metro dispatch." I fully understand the City's budget challenges, but I agree with former Chief Ichesco that the focus should be on finding ways to regionalize fire services to save money. I'm disappointed that Mr. Lange has decided to rule out further efforts in this direction in favor of moving forward with this so-called "hybrid" model. Whether it is through regionalizing fire services, raising additional revenue, or some other mechanism, we must find a way to maintain public safety services that are not only "adequate" from a budgetary perspective, but also in terms of public safety and community quality-of-life. I don't see how expecting our dedicated public servants to do what amount to TWO highly dangerous, highly stressful jobs at at the same time is going to achieve that.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

I had a beer with a firefighter from another town last weekend and asked him about this idea. He laughed his butt off and said it was moronic. People become fire fighters or cops because they want to be firefighters or cops, not both. And I fail to see how this model generates savings. Its going to cost 33k to cross train, I would imagine it will now cost more to hire due to the additional skills needed, and there also will supposedly be more staff coming on board? I'm not a math whiz, but that just doesn't make sense. Grant or no grant.

average joe

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 11:47 a.m.

Does the city have a 'projection' on how much they would possibly save if they consolidated with the Ypsi Township fire department? If the city manager claims that the city "will continue to look at other ways to consolidate in different areas to save more money and become more efficient", then of course they must have an idea on how much that would be....

Katrease Stafford

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 2:26 p.m.

Hi average joe, If the city were to pursue a consolidation with the township, they would save about $500,000. The Ypsilanti Township Board of Trustees unanimously approved a motion to explore ways to collaborate and save money with the city at its Oct. 22 meeting, but Lange has declined to explore it further at this point. Here's a prior article we wrote about it: