Millage aftermath: how it’s impacted police and fire departments

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published August 26, 2014

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — It has been about nine months since Clinton Township’s police and fire millages passed. In the words of Police Chief Fred Posavetz, the real challenge plaguing the department is not being able to hire officers quickly enough.

The 1.25-mill, nine-year fire millage passed last November with 64.6 percent of the vote. The 1-mill, seven-year police millage passed with 65.5 percent.

If the police and fire millages had not passed last November, attrition and budget cuts would be the present topics of discussion. Instead, both Posavetz and Fire Chief Jack Shea have witnessed the revitalization of their respective departments, they said.

The millage results assured an influx of operational costs at both departments’ disposals, as well as new vehicles and new hires. It has let both chiefs sleep a little easier at night.

“The fact of the matter is that what the millage provided the Fire Department was the ability to settle into a mode of operation for the foreseeable future, for the next nine years,” Shea said. “We know where we stand as far as funding goes, and it means everything for the Fire Department to know the organization you’re going to have: training, procedures and everything that happens when that alarm goes off.”

The Fire Department has been busy with its personnel. It returned seven firefighters who were laid off (who are firefighters now considered “hires”), eight more firefighters were hired with one more soon to be hired, and a fire inspector was also added to the unit.

Shea said that the 15 people hired pretty much fulfill the allotted budget at the given time, but more hiring will be done if and when turnover occurs. The hiring pattern has been rocky, Shea said, especially prior to the millage due to firefighter retirement.

Things are pretty similar in the Police Department: Some officers are getting hired while others are retiring. The department is budgeted at 93 officers and is currently at 86 officers; however, the number will reach 90 when four officers are officially hired Aug. 28.

“As fast as were bringing them on, they’re going out the back door,” Posavetz said. “It’s changing the complexion of our department. It’s definitely lowering the average age of our department, which is a good thing. So that’s encouraging, with the fresh blood, (but we’re) losing a lot of experience. It comes with time.”

Posavetz said it’s difficult to replace the experience of an officer who had 25 years in the field, but it’s a part of the job. He noted that the Police Department used to have 110 officers, so adding any officers is a “shot in the arm” in terms of progress.

The Fire Department is in the same boat, or, rather, truck. Firefighters have come and gone, but Shea said it comes down to proper execution when on the job. Adding another on-duty fire truck — resulting in six present on-duty trucks — helps firefighters fulfill their roles.

“Everything the Fire Department does increases proficiency when you have personnel,” Shea said. “When you don’t have people to do work, you see how difficult it is. Increased staffing on trucks and providing extra hands makes it much more effective.”

Shea said the Fire Department is a “sustained department,” which can be attributed to the millage. In addition to staffing, the department hopes to acquire new equipment in the future. But even though some equipment is listed as outdated and past its recommended service life, the department will not just be piling up refuse “because there’s a pool of money.”

Posavetz admitted that the millage has changed his perspective in terms of how he manages his department, but nothing has really surprised the 31-year veteran.

“(The millage results) mean that I need to direct my attention at other things,” Posavetz said. “When I had senior officers, we had the focus on background checks, training, field training, officer programs — everything to prepare an officer to get on the road.

“We’re getting there. It’s a slow process, and we knew it would it take time and it is taking time. We were well aware that hiring was about a year, so we are right on schedule.”