Public safety updates council

ESCANABA – Escanaba Public Safety Director Ken Vanderlinden fielded questions about his department and its needs from the Escanaba City Council during a budget hearing Monday afternoon.

One of the major concerns for Public Safety in the last year was updating officer training. Five officers were missing necessary fire training in fire truck driving and hazardous materials operations.

“The entire department is where they should have been years ago. How or why people fell through the cracks as far as training I don’t know, but I assure you they have what they need,” said Vanderlinden.

Under the proposed budget, it is recommended that the department receive $4,000 for education and training of public safety officers. This is a $1,500 – roughly 27 percent – decrease from last year’s education and training allotment.

The department is planning to increase its fire preparedness by acquiring a fire truck through military surplus. However, Public Safety is having difficulty acquiring the truck due to its classification as a public safety unit.

“The military surplus site views public safety officers different than we’d like them to. Law enforcement is able to get this equipment; firemen can get this equipment. Well, they view us strictly as law enforcement,” said Vanderlinden, adding he believes working with agencies downstate will allow the department to acquire a ladder truck.

The Escanaba Public Safety Department is also responsible for overseeing 911 dispatch. An additional $10,000 has been budgeted for dispatcher training.

“From the time a call is made, to the time of an arrival of an officer is three minutes or less. It’s pretty impressive,” said City Manager Jim O’Toole.

Both Vanderlinden and O’Toole stressed while the department is exceeding expectations in many areas, it is understaffed.

“The Department of Public Safety has seen a reduction in force both in uniformed officers and in clerical staff, and unfortunately that’s just a sign of the times with respect to the revenues coming in from the state,” said O’Toole.

Building improvements have also been included in the proposed Public Safety budget. The department will receive a new roof for its building, windows will continue to be replaced throughout the facility, and $8,000 will be set aside for routine maintenance.