DOVER — At its last meeting City Council, authorized the city undergo a comprehensive analysis of its police, fire and EMS services.
The goal is to better understand the needs of the city.
Dover Fire Chief Mark Hall, however, objects: He believes the review isn’t necessary for the department.
“Is it worth sacrificing employees’ jobs or the public safety to the city?” Chief Hall asked. “We’re a volunteer fire department.
“We are the only state capital in the United States that is serviced by volunteers, so why would you take something away from a volunteer company,” he said.
“I don’t agree with the review. We all are volunteers.”
Council members passed the motion 8-1 during its meeting June 22.
City Manager Scott Koenig said the analysis isn’t meant to disrespect the department in any way.
“It’s about finding out if we can deliver services cheaper, or if we can partner with other means available to us, so it’s not in any way to be disrespectful to the department,” he said.
“It’s about improving efficiencies and work flow as well as reducing costs if possible.”
The Center for Public Safety Management, the exclusive provider of public safety technical assistance for the International City and County Management Association, will conduct the analysis.
The cost of $100,000 was allocated in the fiscal year 2016 budget.
Councilman Brian Lewis questioned the price tag, asking if there was a more economical way of conducting the analysis.
Mr. Koenig argued it wouldn’t be in the city’s best interests to seek another option.
“I believe you need to secure the services of an unbiased expert,” Mr. Koenig said. “We think for the benefit of the community we need an independent third party to look at this.”
A data-driven forensic analysis will aim to identify actual workload, identify and recommend appropriate staffing and deployment levels for every discrete operational and support function in the department and examine the department’s organizational structure and culture.
Mr. Koenig said the primary focus will be on the police department.
Police Chief Paul Bernat supports the idea.
“It gives us a different opinion,” Chief Bernat said. “I think it’s a good idea because if we say we need more firefighters or police officers for the city we will be able to compare it to the information from the analysis to see if it is or isn’t needed.”
Councilman James Hutchison, who served as the city’s police chief from 1988 to 1992, shared the sentiment.
“Having being a part of the police department for 25 years I think it’s needed,” Councilman Hutchison said.
“The world has changed and we have to be able to change, too. It’s nice to have a team of experts analyze us and come back with recommendations. We have an obligation to our citizens to at least look at it.
“There is no question that we have a excellent volunteer fire service and police department. Our job is to make sure we’re doing the right things now, so we’re prepared for the future.”
Councilman Lewis suggested the possibility of creating a committee of community members, firefighters, police officers, EMS workers and local financial experts instead of hiring the CPSM.
But Councilman William Hare didn’t believe that was the best solution.
“These people are very professional and are unbiased,” Councilman Hare said. “They don’t know what’s here and they come in and look at it from a neutral point of view.
“I think that’s what we need to have. We need to have a fresh set of eyes that don’t have any opinions before they get here.”
The CPSM has assembled a team of experts from a variety of disciplines from across the United States.
The team will consist of a project team leader, two operations leaders and several senior public safety experts selected specifically to meet the needs of the community.
Councilman Hare said council members will have a final say on the recommendations moving forward.
“Nothing is going to happen with the report,” Councilman Hare said. “The report is going to be made. It’s going to be given to the city manager, who will then give it to us.
“We’re the ones who are going to decide if there is anything in the report we want to implement,” he said. “It’s going to give us information, which you can’t have enough of.”