Public Safety Department - Clarifying Information

PublicSafety (2)The second vote on the establishment of a Public Safety Department will be held Monday night. The pubic has had some very valid questions as to how this will look and why the Town is going in this direction. The short answer is that in the immediate future there is a significant savings in having one administrator that oversees both the Fire and the Police departments. It is important to stress that this is a change to the administration of these departments. The departments themselves still exist, and still have a Deputy overseeing operations that is fully certified and qualified in each discipline. This is not the merging of both departments operationally. Fire staff will not be trying to perform law enforcement duties, nor will Police staff be tasked with fighting fires or running ambulance calls.

The long-range picture is that there are beneficial opportunities to having a Public Safety Department versus two stand-alone departments. Should the Facility Study recommend that a new facility be commissioned, Police and Fire can share all of the common space. This would mean having dining and living spaces, locker rooms, training facilities, physical fitness space and meeting space shared, instead of building separate facilities for both departments. In turn, sharing space has been shown to promote cooperation and comradery between PD and Fire staff. In fact, this was experiences right here in Winslow when the Police Department was being renovated and the officers needed to share space in the Fire Department. Shared space also lends itself to coordinated training exercises between the departments, which is critical to disaster response efforts. Finally, there are more grant funding opportunities available to Public Safety departments than to either Police or Fire departments alone, which could save the Town money moving forward.

Here is how the current staffing and Public Safety staffing compare in terms of cost:

Current Structure including benefits:
  •   1 Police Chief  $110,613 (Class 28 step 8 of salary scale, Single insured, ICMA retirement)
  •   1 Lieutenant  $125,262 (Step 11 Union, Family insured, MPERS 2/3 plan) – earns overtime in addition to this
  •   1 Fire Chief  $107,937 (Class 28 step 9 of salary scale, $10k medical opt out, ICMA retirement) – Potential new chief loaded salary $92,415 to $118,620
  •   1 Deputy Fire Chief  $116,929 (Class 26 step 9 of salary scale, Family insured, ICMA retirement)
  •   Total admin employees – 4     Total Cost - $460,208
 Public Safety Structure including benefits:
  •    1 Public Safety Director $110,613 (current assessment of Police Chief salaries includes those who are public safety directors so no change)
  •    1 Deputy Police Chief $122,655 (Class 27 step 10 of salary scale, Family insured, ICMA retirement)
  •    1 Deputy Fire Chief $122,655 (Class 27 step 10 of salary scale, Family insured, ICMA retirement)
  •    Total Admin employees – 3    Total Cost $355,923

This is based on the current employees who would take these positions in the interim assignments and the current benefits they have chosen, AND before adding in the Lieutenant’s overtime. So before even adding the OT, the savings is approximately $105,000. And potentially a newly hired Fire Chief could come in at the top of the pay scale, making the difference even greater. So there is a definite cost savings. Note that these are initial thoughts on where the Deputy Chief positions would land on the current salary scale, and it may change after assessment. But it’s a pretty good estimate.

There has been a question about having to add facility space to accommodate these new positions. The Town isn't adding any new space to accommodate this change. That’s an entirely different discussion that is the facility needs assessment. The Public Safety Director does not need to be resident within either department, so offices can stay where they are. Even if the Fire Department were to move off site the Police Department can stay at the current location (assuming the facility study recommends only building a new Fire facility). The Public Safety Director doesn’t need to be at the same location. Obviously, this position needs to spend time with both deputies, but not all day every day. Meetings can happen in either location based on needs at the time. Again, the Police Department and the Fire Department are not being abolished. This is a purely administrative structure where those departments fall under a parent Department which is Public Safety. A Public Safety Department wouldn’t be the driving force behind building a new facility.

Another concern has been, were current staff consulted? This possibility was discussed with both Chiefs and their staffs prior to the first vote on 11/14. It was not discussed prior to the Chief announcing his resignation so granted there was no lengthy in-depth discussion which is why the Town is looking to do this as a trial before making the reorganization permanent. But Chief Macdaid informed the Town Manager that his staff is on board with a trial, Deputy Chief Bolduc says he’s going into it with an open mind, and Captain Capp in the Fire Department informed the Town Manager the day after the meeting that the fire staff showed up at the Council meeting to come out in support of the idea and that only a couple of fire staff are not in favor of the trial. The Union is OK with the move so long as the departments continue to be represented as they currently are and there are no changes to the responsibilities, pay or benefits of Union staff. Unless this is being grossly misrepresented by current leadership at the department level, there is no significant issue with staff. The key point is that this is a trial which will be assessed continuously over the next six months should the Council pass the measure at the Special Meeting on November 21. 

The last question is how can the Town do this as a trial if new positions are being created? No new positions are being created during the trial. The only change during the trial is that Deputy Chief Bolduc is being appointed interim Fire Chief and will have a temporary wage adjustment in accordance with that title. Nothing happens with Chief Macdaid or Lieutenant Hubert at this time. The Town will not undertake a restructuring of actual staff positions until after the trial is completed so there is no issue with trying to remove positions we have added. Council also has the option to extend the trial if they want to have more time to see how it’s working out. Once the final decision is made after the trial period the organizational structure will either go back to the way it was, or a formal restructuring will be undertaken. But not until the trial is over.

The Town will hold periodic public meetings during the trial period for the purposes of informing the public as to how it’s working and inviting public input. If anyone has experienced a negative consequence of having PD and Fire under one administrative umbrella, they can make those concerns known.