ALPENA - The topic of consolidating the Alpena Police Department with the operations of the county sheriff's department has surfaced many times during Alpena Municipal Council meetings. As the city searches for ways to cut costs and share services, all options are being explored. During Monday's council meeting, however, a report made by Alpena Interim Chief Joel Jett outlined why joining forces with the county police is not in the best interest of either party at this time.
Jett, who worked with Alpena County Sheriff Stave Kieliszewski to form the report, said the two departments already work together in the sharing of technology and information and lend assistance when needed, but to do so on a full-time basis is just not feasible.
"We have never been opposed of working together, that has never been the issue," Jett said. "We all went into this with open minds and hearts, and none of us wanted anyone to think we were trying to obstruct progress or blocking any kind of change. We went into it to see what we could do better and how we could be more efficient, this is truly what we came up with. There is a laundry list of things we do now and have done for years in partnership, and after lengthy discussions, we have concluded the concept is not necessary, justified or viable."
Among the the reasons Jett gave the council was the fact the city currently offers patrols 24 hours a day, seven days a week and has a response time of about two minutes. A collaboration of services could change that fact.
"In one model that was proposed, it may seem to be economical long term, it would not be effective, and it would not be efficient," Jett said. "Some communities have even experienced de-consolidation, which is a new term, where basically they are faced with the hard fact that it didn't work out the way they thought it was going to, and then they have a problem of what are they going to do now. That can be very problematic and expensive."
After Jett's report, Councilman Dave Karschnick said the talk of consolidation has had an impact on the officers and deputies. As a way to put the controversial subject to rest for a while, he made a motion consolidation of the police to be rested for five years. He then altered it to be indefinite instead of five years, but it never received a second motion.
Karschnick said he thought he may get a second and it could be discussed further, but he didn't know if a vote would pass. He said his primary concern is for the officers and their morale.
"The city guys are talking like maybe they should go look for another job," he said. "We can't operate with any less right now. We are already down three from where we should be. We have a good police department and the sheriff. They have to take care of the court and the jail, that is mandated by the state and five unions involved. I think if we could have had some support, it would have made them feel better."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.