The Pleasant Ridge City Commission approved a fire agreement with the during its meeting Tuesday night, as well as the termination of its contract with the Ferndale Fire Department, as Pleasant Ridge and Berkley discuss a possible public safety collaboration.
The Pleasant Ridge City Commission also authorized City Manager Sherry Ball to continue public safety talks with Berkley, despite passionate objections from Pleasant Ridge residents who packed the Pleasant Ridge Community Center during the meeting.
Pleasant Ridge, which has its own police force, has contracted fire services through Ferndale for the past 88 years. But, that would change if Berkley and Pleasant Ridge decide to form a single public safety department.
A public safety department consists of officers who are trained in both police and fire protection services.
During a meeting last month, the Berkley City Council also passed a fire agreement with Pleasant Ridge to ensure services will not be disrupted if the Ferndale fire department contract falls through before it expires in 2013 or if Pleasant Ridge decides to terminate the contract. Pleasant Ridge had to give Ferndale a two-year notice to do so. The current contract ends June 30.
Pleasant Ridge's contract with Ferndale will cost $280,000 this fiscal year and $265,000 in 2012. Under the agreement with Berkley, Pleasant Ridge would pay $104,000 for the year beginning July 1, 2013; $109,000 for the year beginning July 1, 2014; and a fee to be set in 2015, if needed.
Pleasant Ridge Mayor Ralph Castelli Jr. added that negotiations with Ferndale during its 88-year fire protection agreement have been contentious at times, which is why the two-year notice is in place. He also told a resident during the meeting that he feels Pleasant Ridge is underprotected.
Ball said that a public safety partnership with Berkley would combine Pleasant Ridge's six police officers with Berkley's 26 public safety officers to put more feet on the streets in both cities.
Pleasant Ridge Residents Want A Vote
But, the frustrated audience expressed a litany of concerns, including the distance between Berkley and Pleasant Ridge, issues related to crossing Interstate 696 during emergencies, the loss of a community connection with Pleasant Ridge police officers and the desire for a vote on the issue of public safety.
"Voting and enacting this without involvement of the residents in this town is close to not getting elected again," resident Mike McDonald said.
Pleasant Ridge resident and business owner Jessica McCarthy also called for a vote.
"My concern here is this decision you (the City Commission) all back 100 percent," said the co-owner of diner in Pleasant Ridge.
"I don't believe it is up to you and if you have any respect for the citizens, you'll let us vote," she said, to applause. "You have the info, we're all intelligent people, let us make that decision."
McCarthy also asked Berkley Public Safety Deputy Director Robert North, who was in attendance, how long it would take to get to across Woodward Avenue from Berkley in the event of an emergency. North said an exact figure is not available.
"I'd like to have facts before my police department is Berkley's (police department)," McCarthy said.
Others Remain Open to Possibilities
Pleasant Ridge resident Amanda Van Duesen saw it a different way.
"I'm open to public safety arrangement with Berkley. But a lot of questions have been raised that deserve direct answers," she said. "A lot of people have come out saying we want this to stay the same way. But because of state budgets and revenue cuts, they aren't going to stay the same way. They are going to change. So how are we going to change?"
Gov. Rick Snyder has encouraged local governments to consolidate services in order to qualify for statutory state-shared revenue funds, and officials from Berkley and Pleasant Ridge have said this is a factor in their talks. Berkley already handles dispatch services for Pleasant Ridge and City Manager Sherry Ball said consideration of a public safety collaboration simply builds on that partnership.
Ferndale Interim City Manager Mark Wollenweber said Ferndale will abide by the current fire contract until July 1, 2013.
"We will continue to offer our premier services for the length of the contract," he said Wednesday afternoon.
Wollenweber said Pleasant Ridge wants to get a fire service contract for less than $200,000 and that Ferndale will not close the door on future negotiations.
During Tuesday night's meeting, Pleasant Ridge Mayor Ralph Castelli Jr. reminded the audience: "This is the first step of a process."
Stay tuned to Berkley Patch for more information about a possible public safety collaboration between Berkley and Pleasant Ridge as the talks continue. .