Like it or not, merging services is a must

By Charles Sercombe

One of Gov. Snyder’s directives to communities across the state is to find ways to consolidate, and even merge, services.

Over a month ago, the Hamtramck City Council also asked City Manager Bill Cooper to look into merging services with other communities, which would include just about any city service.

That means police and fire service as well.

So, weeks have gone by and there has been no report back to the council. We caught up with Cooper last week and asked him how that assignment is going.

His reply was terse, but not because he finds the job a waste of time.

“So far,” he said, “no one has returned a call.”

Cooper said he has left messages with both county and Detroit officials. As for a merger with Highland Park, it’s generally agreed among city officials that combining police and/or fire departments would be a great step down.

Highland Park pays police officers $15 an hour with no benefits. Firefighters are paid $10 an hour also with no benefits.

Firefighters start out here with about a $30,000-a-year salary with benefits for themselves and their family.

Cooper said with Highland Park “already cut to the bone,” there is nowhere to turn to. Detroit? That city has more problems than Hamtramck, plus even the discussion of merging would cause a huge uproar.

“Residents are not happy with merging services with Detroit,” Cooper said.

You could say that’s an understatement.

But turning our collective back on merging services is hardly an option. Gov. Snyder has intertwined this directive with how much state revenue the city will get – or to be more precise, what the city won’t get.

If Hamtramck does not find a way to merge services, or at least some services, the city could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in state revenue.

And if the city falls into a deep enough debt and can’t make payroll, Snyder has another option: bring in an emergency financial manager, who likely won’t hesitate to merge services – whether residents like it or not.

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