City to investigate combined police, fire department

AUBURN — Police patrol officers and firefighters would share the Central Fire Station, but police detectives and management for both would move to Auburn Hall, according to a plan unveiled Monday to combine the Police and Fire departments.

"At this point, we have many more questions than we have answers about how this would work," City Manager Glenn Aho told councilors. "This would just let staff move in baby steps and begin the exploration phase."

Councilors voted 5-2 to direct staff to research the proposal further and begin work drawing up an ordinance combining the two, creating a public safety department to replace the Police and Fire departments.

Police Chief Phil Crowell presented the plan to councilors, mapping out how it could be structured. Crowell would act as public safety chief, a fire chief and police chief answering to him. Patrol and fire divisions would stay separate, but administrative, records, support services, criminal investigations, inspections and training and the school resource officers would become part of a joint department. The joint services and the chiefs would all be located in Auburn Hall.

The Auburn Police Department is at 1 Minot Ave. The Central Fire station is at 550 Minot Ave. The city also has fire substations on Center Street and in New Auburn.

According to Monday's proposal, the police building would be closed. Patrol officers would be moved into the Minot Avenue fire station.

Ultimately, Crowell said the proposal should save the city money — but that's not why it's being considered.

"The purpose is not simply to reduce costs," he said. "Doing that, at the detriment of two very highly-functioning departments, is not what we want to happen. We think there are efficiencies we can create."

The proposal was already controversial. Acting Chief Mike Minkowsky of the Fire Department said he was not consulted enough before Monday's discussion.

"It's disrespectful to me and to my organization," Minkowsky said. "To have this put to a vote without my input — no more than a cursory walk through in Auburn Hall's offices — makes me extremely disappointed."

That convinced Councilor Belinda Gerry not to support Monday's measure.

"I think it sounds like a neat idea, but not having this presented by the police chief and the acting fire chief together, that's what's not giving me the warm fuzzies about this idea," Gerry said.

Councilor Eric Samson also voted against the measure, saying it sounded too formal.

"I don't want to move far along this decision until I know what this is going to mean for fire response times, or for police responses," Samson said. "My concern is that this is moving ahead and we can't answer those questions."

staylor@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

If we are going to

If we are going to attempt ludicrous answers to problems that elected and appointed leadership cannot resolve, why not request that Governor BaldArchie declare martial law. Then the powers that be can invoke the Conscription act and  use private homes to house members of the Police & Fire Departments. They can then house the vehicles (at least the Police Cars) in private garages and the Officers in private homes thus eliminating a great expense. Citizens would then be forced to feed and provide comfort thus eliminating any costs for future contractural benefits. And everyone would live happily ever after.

Leo Camire's picture

Glad I moved

I am glad I moved out of Auburn. The elected poeple just never get it.

GARY SAVARD's picture

Phil Crowell, "Superchief".

Phil Crowell, "Superchief". No ego problem there!

Peter Blake's picture

Think about this

Ok, What are the response times for the police if they are based on Minot Ave?  Where are the most traffic accidents and crimes in Auburn?  Has all this been calculated into the equation to move things around?  What are the plans for the old police station if this happens? 

Perhaps a better plan would be to station a couple of cruisers at each substation and a couple at city hall.  Makes more sense to spread out the coverage.

Of course, I am really a fan of combining all police, fire and education with Lewiston.  I think that this could save each city huge amounts of money.  Perhaps then Auburn wouldn't have to build a multimillion dollar school, but could share Lewiston's vast site.  Education budgets are shrinking and it seems time to make the hard choice of taking the best teachers of each system and making one great educational system.  Once the new EL is built, this plan would never go forward.

Think about the cost of education, it amounts to about 52 percent of each city budget.  Taxpayers, would you object to what would amount to approx. 25 percent reduction in your tax bill?  I, Reason, doubt it very very much. 

I know it means giving up the wonderful EL which is falling down and may not pass the state inspection to be certified very soon.  Those who will object most would be former students, and I applaud that loyalty.  However, we must reason what would be best for the children, taxpayers, etc.  This is a worthy plan and should be explored more.  I, Reason, expect that Lewiston would NOT be willing to participate in this even if it saved their taxpayers the same 25%.  There is not an logic on that side of the river. 

Reason with Me and discuss this with your councilors today before a new EL is built and taxes increase.

 's picture

Masters in education? The

Masters in education? The grammer etc in your letter had me fooled. The 25% savings is nthing more than smoke and mirrors. 

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