Waterford Township officials are currently in discussions with the city of Pontiac to possibly merge the two communities’ fire department services in an effort spearheaded by Pontiac officials to save the city money.
According to Waterford Township Supervisor Carl Solden, Pontiac officials approached him about considering a fire service contract between the two communities as long as it was amenable to both parties. Discussions have been taking place for five weeks now.
“We’re the biggest community in the area and have a professional and dependable staff,” Solden said. “We want to be a leader not a follower, but I didn’t solicit this. I was asked to participate in a meeting.”
The initiative aligns with Gov. Rick Snyder and the state Legislature’s call to municipalities to forge collaborative agreements.
“Consolidation is the future, but one community has to save money and one has to make money — any agreement must benefit both communities,” Solden said.
However, talks are still in the infancy stages, so any formal agreement is far from being reached.
“The township and I agreed we both want to do this, but we need to get both unions together and work it out,” Pontiac Emergency Financial Manager Lou Schimmel said. “There’s a verbal agreement between the township and myself, as the emergency manager, to make this happen.”
Waterford currently has an agreement with Lake Angelus to provide that community with fire services, and more recently consolidated information technology services with neighboring White Lake Township.
This is a second time Pontiac has sought financial relief from an outside source via a public safety service agreement. In August, the city contracted with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department for police patrol and dispatch services.
“I’m trying to deal with a $12.5 million deficit on an annual basis,” Schimmel said. “Each year we’re in trouble and need to find ways to offset it. One way is by reducing fire service to make structural changes.”
Schimmel estimates a cost savings for Pontiac of $3 million per year if the agreement with Waterford comes to fruition.
Solden said the fiscal impact to Waterford has not yet been determined.
“If it’s feasibly possible and if both communities benefit, we’ll move forward, but it’s too early to tell,” Solden said.
According to Schimmel, Pontiac Firefighters Union Local 376 is currently under contract and negotiations with the union are impeding the fire services contract discussions.
“Right now we’re trying to alter the contract,” Schimmel said.
If a deal is reached, the goal is to mete out a fire services contract by Jan. 1, according to Schimmel.