When the City of Pontiac recently announced it was disbanding its entire police department and instead contracting out that service to Oakland County Sheriffs, you could almost feel a shudder in town.
Hamtramck, like many communities in the state, is also struggling with a budget deficit. By January, the city could be $3 million in the hole. City Manager Bill Cooper is asking the city’s union workforce – including police officers – to take a cut in pay and benefits.
So far, only the firefighters have agreed to cuts.
The cost of public safety in Hamtramck is $8 million a year – almost half of the city’s annual budget.
It’s a cost that Hamtramck can no longer afford. But what are the alternatives?
Certainly merging with Highland Park – our immediate neighbor to the west – is out of the question. That poor city recently had to let go of several officers, and the ones who remain are being paid only $15 per hour with no benefits.
With the layoff of officers there, Highland Park’s mayor is asking residents to step up and perform volunteer patrols, armed only with police radios.
This is insanity. And yet we don’t hear a word from state government officials. They are simply going to let Highland Park wither away and die.
This is why Hamtramck has to adapt to the changing economic outlook and change fast because it appears no one from the state is going to come to our rescue. Oh, and if Hamtramck can’t balance its budget it’s likely a state-appointed financial manager will be put in charge.
You can bet that whoever the manager is, there will be no hesitation to merge our services.
So, what can the city to do?
Our fate, it appears, is in the hands of city employees. They must decide to accept pay cuts now or face having their jobs wiped away. These are tough times where plenty of folks have permanently lost their jobs.
A lot of people would be grateful right now to have a job – any job. This is something employees have to weigh, and we know it’s a difficult decision.