(03/19/13) - Saginaw's public safety situation is a little clearer.
Talks to have the sheriff patrol the city have broken down. That means layoffs are likely by the summer.
If the sheriff and city can't come up with a deal, 10 police officers and 15 firefighters will be laid off. That would leave just 55 police officers and 35 firefighters on the job.
What caused a breakdown in talks? Both sides are pointing fingers at each other.
"It would be unsafe for everyone at 80 plus four," said Saginaw County Sheriff Bill Federspiel.
That's why Federspiel says he has once again rejected the city's plan to have the sheriff's department patrol the city with 84 officers. The city is facing a $3.2 million budget deficit for the next fiscal year, and city manager Darnell Earley says two thirds of the city's budget is public safety.
"We believe we have a good proposal in front of the sheriff, and he obviously thinks otherwise," Earley said.
Saginaw City Councilman Dennis Browning, a former police officer, says Federspiel has turned his back on the city, a characterization that Federspiel denies.
"For them to say I'm turning my back, what if I would have said yes to 85, what if just one more, but they don't negotiate," Federspiel said.
"What I was firm on was let's get together and talk about a number. I sent him a letter on the thirteenth of February to do just that, and he did not respond," Earley said.
Federspiel says an existing contract with the police union also concerned him, as well as the possibility Earley may take another job. The city manager was a finalist for an Ingham County job that he ended up not getting.
"What I don't want to see happen is to have [a] mess dumped in my lap, and off goes the city manager waving goodbye like on a ship, bon voyage, while Federspiel is left holding the bag," Federspiel said.
"We have a management team in place that has been doing a lot of this work, it is not contingent on my being here," Earley said.
Unless some other option is explored, Saginaw will be down to 55 police officers on July 1. There were about 100 officers at the beginning of 2012.
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