Lookback: 2017

John Blair named police chief

Mayor Rick Sollars kept is 2017 Inaugural Ceremony keynote speech short and sweet – but he had a surprise at the end. In front of over 200 people including a large contingent of Taylor police November 14 at the Lakes of Taylor, the mayor named John Blair the City’s newest police chief. Simultaneously, Richard “Rick” Hopper was named deputy chief.

"We did a wide, in-depth search to find a new police chief and deputy chief,” Mayor Sollars said. “But as it turned out, we had the best people for the job right here in our own department. I couldn’t be happier.”

The search committee spent months going through candidates for the position, some of which were from departments with as many as 3,000 employees. Blair had been acting chief since July 2017. Like those before him, Chief Blair is a longtime member of the force and was an executive commander before being named acting chief. He started his career with the department in 1991, and worked various assignments including road patrol, SWAT, field training officer, firearms instructor, investigations, special operations and traffic division.  He has also served in a supervisory position as a road patrol, K-9 and special operations sergeant and lieutenant of the traffic division, and commander of the patrol division, firearm training unit, traffic division and special support services section.

Acting Chief Blair was selected twice as the Department’s Officer of the Year (1999 and 2008) and the Police Officer Association of Michigan Officer of the Year in 2008.

He has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice from Michigan State University and is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Police School of Staff and Command.  He has been a MCOLES certified firearm instructor since 1997 as well a State of Michigan certified Concealed Pistol License instructor since 2002. He has also served as program director of two Federal Cooperative Agreements with the Federal Highway Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Deputy Chief Hopper, a former Commander, has been with the Police Department for 20 years and is currently in charge of the Investigative Division and Records Bureau. He also oversees internal affairs, hiring, recruiting, departmental freedom of information act requests, and technology related items. During his career he has served as a Public Service Officer (three years), Road Patrol Officer (four years), Detective (two years), Special Operations Detective (three years), S.W.A.T. Team Operator (five years), Patrol Sergeant (four years), Patrol Lieutenant (two years), Investigative Commander (two years).

He obtained an Associates Degree from Schoolcraft College, Bachelor Degree from Eastern Michigan University and is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Public Administration. He served for six years as a U.S. Army Military Police Officer with the 1176 M.P. Company with a 1 year deployment in support of Operation Joint Endeavor.

Taylor Tee Times

TrackMan Indoor Golf Simulators come to Taylor Meadows

Attention golfers! Heading into the offseason, Taylor Golf asks this simple question: Why travel all the way to Detroit or Auburn Hills to play Topgolf, when we will be offering a better experience right here at Taylor Meadows? The new program is called “iGolf Taylor,” featuring the top-of-the-line TrackMan Golf Simulators, widely considered the best indoor golf experience available.

The City of Taylor already offers two of the finest municipal golf courses in Michigan – the Lakes of Taylor and Taylor Meadows. Beginning this winter, Taylor Golf will be turning its collective eyes indoors in a big way, featuring TrackMan Golf Simulators. In fact, Taylor will become the only location in southeastern Michigan with four TrackMan Golf Simulators. No one else can make that boast.

"In July, MGM Grand Detroit announced that it will be offering a Topgolf suite this offseason, and there is one coming to Auburn Hills, too,” Mayor Rick Sollars said. “But why go all the way downtown, or out to Auburn Hills, if you can have a better experience right here in Taylor? We will give you that experience with TrackMan, through our ‘iGolf Taylor’ plan.”

Taylor Golf leased space at Taylor Meadows to Tee Box Golf simulators since 2012. Given that participation in golf across the nation has fallen, recently to the tune of 22 percent, offering simulators onsite keeps dedicated area golfers happy during the offseason, and lures others into the game. However, this year Tee Box Golf discontinued the arrangement. Rather than lease or purchase Tee Box Golf’s equipment to continue its successful offseason efforts, Taylor Golf will purchase four TrackMan Golf Simulators, arguably the best indoor golf experience in the world.

“This is just a great investment,” Mayor Sollars said. “This is tremendous equipment, the best on the market today. We want to keep golfers playing our courses, and we want to keep them happy in the offseason. And there are many ways to use this equipment, including outdoors. It’s a top-notch product."


John Blair

Emergency transport services return to Fire Department

Emergency medial transport services returned to the Taylor Fire Department after essentially being privatized for over six years. Mayor Rick Sollars and Fire Chief Stephen Portis authored a new program that will enable the TFD to begin ambulance services tentatively on August 1. The City Council unanimously passed the resolution earlier this month.

“Based on the future of the City and the future of the department, we feel that we’re in a good position to now do this,” Mayor Sollars said. “We could not have done this four years ago. We couldn’t have done it two years ago. But we feel that we can at this point.”

The City has not performed transportation services for medical emergencies for the past six years (with few exceptions). Under the previous administration transport responsibilities were eliminated from the Fire Department and were handled by HealthLink, which is headquartered in Taylor (and eventually turned into Beaumont). The cutback was one of many in the TFD during that era, which saw staffing levels cut by more than half at some points and a highly controversial political debate over a federal grant subsidy take place that pitted the previous council against the former mayor, which ended up in court.

Under Mayor Sollars, who took office in November 2013, the Fire staffing levels and administration were stabilized. Advanced Life Support certification was re-attained. And an extension of the original Federal Emergency Management Agency SAFER grant was approved. Another smaller SAFER grant was eventually accepted when the original extension ran out. That smaller grant will, too, run out later this summer. All the while, the Fire Department recertified and performed ALS functions, but actual transporting was left to HealthLink. 

The problem with that scenario is that the ambulance carrier is able to bill for services rendered, but the City was not. That meant that if the TFD responded and performed ALS functions, only HealthLink was paid. Negotiations between Taylor, HealthLink and other carriers could not bridge that financial gap, so Chief Portis turned his focus back to fire department-provided transport to fix the problem. “With the SAFER grant expiring this year, we had to find a sustainable program that would capture these billable funds (which amount to approximately $1.2M each year),” he said.

Under the new transport plan, the department will have three ambulances (two new, one refurbished) operating out of all three fire stations in the community. The department will also be able to use its newer Chevrolet Tahoe’s in emergency situations. Beaumont transport will also be available, although the TFD would takeover the No. 1 role in the program. 

“Department-provided transport will offer more experienced fire personnel on the scene of any medical emergency,” Chief Portis said. “We will also have the ability to capture the billable from the emergency response runs, which is a considerable amount of money and will serve an important role in the future financial structure of the department.

And our department, under this plan, will accomplish the job of transporting with less staffing (down from 53 at one time to a projected 42).”

“This isn’t about politics, it’s about perseverance. We have a City Council that was supportive of this model and, over four years, helped work through the tough financial situation that the City was in. We got to a point, four years later, where we could consider this model.”