Support for Bay City police and fire merge divided

Bay City commissioners are considering merging police and fire services to save up to $2 million a year.

City Manager Robert Belleman told them Monday night that the merger plan is the best one on the table.

â??We have to provide the same level or comparable service within the resources we're given,â?? Cecchini said.

Police Chief Mike Cecchini and Interim Fire Chief Karey Prieur presented commissioners with details of the plan that calls for cutting 15 to 20 firefighters and cross-training police officers as public safety officers.

Belleman said the city also looked at creating a fire authority with other townships and municipalities and contracting police services from the Bay County Sheriff's department.

Dozens of residents, police officers and firefighters attended Mondayâ??s meeting, and some of them didn't mince words when they spoke out against the plan, saying it would endanger quick response times to fires.

"Every minute a fire burns, it doubles in size. And Bay City has a lot of 100-year-old two-story buildings,â?? said Mark Robinson.

Gary Fox, a retired firefighter, said he was concerned experienced firefighters would be laid off while police officers with a few years of experience would be retained.

"Your command officers must have experience or you're going to have deaths,â?? Fox said. â??Both citizens and firefighters."

If commissioners approve the merge, police officers would begin training in December.