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      Bay City begins transition for public safety department

      Starting Tuesday a dozen Bay City police officers go back to school to cross-train as firefighters.

      â??Last night's vote shocked me,â?? Bay City resident Jeff Szczepanski said about Monday nightâ??s vote to merge the cityâ??s police and fire departments.

      Within 18 months Bay City will have one public safety department.

      Interim Fire Chief Karey Prieur said, â??You just can't change overnight how you do things.â??

      By July more than a dozen firefighters will lose their jobs. But Prieur, along with the city manager and police chief, agrees desperate times called for desperate measures. He is well aware of the resistance the plan faced.

      â??It changes the face of the fire department right now, because we're going to experience 14 layoffs. And we're going to lose a lot of experience. But with good management it can be overcome,â?? Prieur said.

      Some residents are not yet convinced.

      "I hope my house does not catch fire,â?? Szczepanski said.

      Others expressed anger at Monday's meeting, saying the plan might help the city's bottom line, but at the cost of residents' safety and security.

      Marsha Voisine said, "Law enforcement and firefighting, it's a thin blue line and the [thin red] line. And they're not luxuries. They're necessities."

      Mike Roznowski, a retired battalion chief, said, "In no other occupation that I know of does experience outweigh textbook instruction."

      The merge is expected to save $1.8 million over five years.

      Bay City will join more than 50 other cities in Michigan with a public safety department.