After years of debate and heated discussion, Bay City commissioners voted Monday night to merge its police and fire services to save up to $1.8 million over the next five years.
Commissioners voted 6-3 in favor of the move in front of a packed room of residents, police officers and firefighters at the Pere Marquette Depot.
Under the plan, a dozen police officers will begin cross-training to fight fires and become public safety officers. Also under the plan, 14 firefighters will be laid off by July.
City Manager Robert Belleman, as well as the police chief and interim fire chief have supported the plan, while the head of the firefighters' union has been supporting an alternative plan that involves more mutual aid with nearby departments and folding the police department into the county sheriff's department.
Monday??s decision came after almost three hours of discussion and public comment.
"It's a bitter pill to swallow,?? said Bay City Firefighters?? Pres. Chris Reynolds. ??It's not in the best interest of the city and the citizens of the community. There's an alternative that the commission should consider, give serious consideration to."
"I believe it's shameful to put the city's two most critical emergency services against each other,?? retired battalion chief Mike Roznowski said.
The first public safety officer academy begins Tuesday, Dec. 4.