To the Editor,
I am the POLC, Van Buren Township Patrol and Dispatcher’s Union President. On November 23, 2015, I was notified by Van Buren Township Director of Public Safety Gregory Laurain that there are going to be layoffs, and that I need to notify my membership. Minutes after my discussion with Director Laurain I sent an e-mail to my union membership officially notifying them that there are going to be layoffs. After notifying my membership, I again spoke with Director Laurain who indicated that he had received the e-mail, and that it was sufficient notification.
Myself and other police union members attended the December 1, 2015, Van Buren Township Board of Trustees Meeting, chaired by Clerk Leon Wright. At that meeting none of the elected board members would give a direct answer to the questions concerning police layoffs, or if the fire department duty crews are going to be eliminated. Our elected union members spoke while Public Safety Director Gregory Laurain sat in the audience without speaking-up to address these issues that are highly sensitive, and disturbing to our membership.
After the Board Meeting it was my impression that certain Township Board Members, and/or Director Laurain appeared to be using their employees as political pawns, because the Public Safety Millage failed. Certain Board Members came to the public safety unions as a last ditch effort to gain our support for the millage. However, it is our belief that the millage language misrepresented public safety funding, and that certain members of the millage committee did not represent the moral standards of public safety first responders.
Our community must be aware that a 2012 millage renewal of 4 mills would fund the public safety department, as it has in the past, until 2017. In 2012 the majority of the members of the Board of Trustees promised to maintain our current level of public safety services if the community voted to renew the then 4 mill public safety millage.
Certain Township Board Members (Treasure Sharry Budd, Trustees Phil Hart and Jeff Jahr) voted in favor of cosigning for the bankrupt Visteon Corporation, in the amount of approximately 55 million dollars, without sufficient benefit to our community. It seems like a good idea at the time; however, in 2019 cosigning for the bankrupt Visteon Corporation will cause a significant shortfall in township revenues.
As in most communities the public safety department has the largest revenue allocation. Therefore, it is very important that the millage is passed. However, Van Buren Township’s public safety employees will only endorse a millage if the Board of Trustees is honest with our citizens about the need to raise their taxes, and does not attempt to use its public safety employees as political pawns.
Going forward, the township’s public safety employees would be happy to support a millage. They would need time to assemble a millage committee that represents the standards of our union membership. Most members of the past committee would be good representatives, however there others who do not meet the criteria of the high moral standards that we require.
Additionally, to date we have not received an answer from our Township Board of Trustees, who gave the Public Safety Director the confidence to notify our union members that layoffs are in their uncertain future. Nor has the Board express the reason to threaten union employees with layoffs when the public safety department is funded through the end of 2017. Our union members and this community demand answers to these pressing questions.
Van Buren Township Patrol and Dispatchers Union