The Rapidian

Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Wyoming officials debate consolidation of police, fire departments

Members of the Council and Commissions of the cities of Grand Rapids, Kentwood and Wyoming met to hear a consolidation proposal of their police and fire services.

The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) presented its consolidation assessment of police and fire services report to elected officials of Grand Rapids, Kentwood and Wyoming at a special joint meeting. The three-hour long meeting was held Thursday, July 18 at Wyoming City Hall.  

“If you were going to consolidate, you have the best possible scenario in front you,” says James McCabe, an ICMA consultant. “You have confident, motivated people, high performing organizations and you already have them working well together.”

ICMA identifies a functional consolidation of services or a complete merger into a metropolitan police department as viable options for the Grand Rapids, Kentwood and Wyoming police departments.

A functional consolidation would fold the investigative and support components of the three police departments into one.

Were the cities to choose a merger instead, ICMA suggests creating three service areas, dividing Grand Rapids into two services areas and combining Kentwood and Wyoming into a third service area, with a community policing component.

A report on the feasibility of consolidating fire rescue services for Grand Rapids, Kentwood and Wyoming was presented by Joseph Pozzo, another ICMA consultant.

The consolidated fire authority would consist of 16 fire stations, four of which would be staffed during identified peak call volume time periods, according to the report. The fire stations would staff fewer personnel and deploy fewer fire apparatus. Adjustments would be made to deployment based on increase or decrease in risk, demand for service, response and travel time and available funding.

“Once you identify all of your risks as an agency, then you need to look at what are my capabilities as a fire department and then how do I deliver to each of these risks, and can I deliver to each of these risks,” says Pozzo.

This fire service consolidation would annually save the cities more than $7 million, according to the report.

ICMA also recommends allowing private ambulance providers to handle lower-priority calls without the involvement of fire rescue personnel.

Each city council will further study the report before moving forward in the decision making process.

“The report left us with more questions than answers. I think this is just the beginning of ‘where do we go from here?” says Wyoming Council Member Sam Bolt.

Several of the council members voiced their concern on information presented.

“I’m not real positive at all about what I heard this evening,” says Kentwood Commissioner Robert Coughlin. “I’ve had this discussion with several of [my constituents] and I haven’t had any positive comments in any way, shape or form seeing this as a good move for the city of Kentwood.”

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