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Firefighters Say Politics to Blame for Department Cuts

Board of Trustees votes to cut fire personnel, 'browns out' Lake Pointe fire station.

The Plymouth Township fire department lost six full-time positions to layoffs at a special township board meeting Thursday, and union officials say politics and personal vendettas are to blame.

The department's full-time staff will be reduced to 15 — down from 21 — as the township looked to erase a $1 million shortfall caused by the City of Plymouth with the township Jan. 1 to pursue a new agreement with Northville.

Greg Mangan, treasurer of the township firefighters' union, said the cuts were "a political move made by politicians" as a response to board members failing to receive support from firefighters during the 2008 election. Mangan said the firefighters threw their support behind Dianne Gonzalez, who until this year was a Plymouth-Canton school board member, instead of eventual winner Supervisor Richard Reaume.

The special meeting took place less than 48 hours after a special assessment ballot proposal that would help offset costs of running a full department .

Lake Pointe station loses fire staffing

The cuts took effect shortly after a special meeting, with fire personnel leaving Station No. 2, also known as the department's Lake Pointe station. According to Dan Atkins, president of the firefighters' union, one firefighter who was subject to the layoffs was sent home. Atkins said the move, which Reaume said "browns out" the station, effectively eliminates its purpose as a fire station.

Reaume said fire personnel would staff stations at Haggerty and Beck roads, while a Huron Valley Ambulance would remain stationed at the Lake Pointe facility on Wilcox Road for emergency transports.

Reaume said the Lake Pointe area has several senior and assisted living facilities in its proximity, and the emergency services would be needed, but that the area has the least amount of fire runs.

Another scenario Reaume proposed was having two firefighters at the Haggerty and Beck stations and one firefighter at the Wilcox station, or rotating the "browned-out" stations according to peak run times. Township firefighters work 24-hour shifts an alternating days.

Mangan said the proposals are "horrible ideas." He said two firefighters alone cannot operate a truck.

Reaume said the smaller full-time staff would be augmented by paid on-call firefighters within a 15-mile radius and mutual aid in Northville Township, the City of Northville, Livonia and Canton, including help from the City of Northville's , which opened Jan. 1. Ambulance runs would be conducted by Huron Valley Ambulance, which he said operates from its Eastern Operations facility at Sheldon and Goldsmith roads in Plymouth.

Board members' ties with Huron Valley Ambulance also came into question during public comment. Treasurer Ron Edwards admitted that he received campaign donations from Huron Valley Ambulance representatives, but said he also received donations from firefighters.

Pat Conely, the firefighters union's secretary, said Edwards hasn't received donations from firefighters since 2004.

Firefighters had braced for cuts

Mangan said that while the cuts hurt, the department has braced for layoffs ever since the township that included a 23 percent cut to the department, decreasing its operating costs from about $4 million to around $3 million.

"It wasn't unexpected," he said, "But I was heartened that one member voted against (the cuts)."

The board voted 6-1 to approve the layoffs. Clerk Joe Bridgman cast the lone dissenting vote.

"I voted no because I didn't agree with the model the supervisor has proposed," Bridgman said after the meeting. "I want to see Plymouth Township firefighters respond and I want to see Plymouth Township EMS. I want to see our tax dollars at work."

Bridgman said when Huron Valley Ambulance responds to a call, residents and their insurance companies will be billed for the run, while Plymouth Township firefighters' EMS runs are covered with tax dollars.

Newest firefighters subject to layoffs

Reaume said that under Section 38.514 of State Act 78, firefighters with the lowest seniority are the first to be laid off, but that if the department is able to hire in the future, those firefighters would be recalled.

Reaume cited "economic conditions," per Act 78's criterion for layoffs, as the official reason for reducing the department's staff.

Tempers flare during public comment

Thursday's meeting, which was , drew at least 100 residents, and some spoke passionately in favor of keeping the department intact.

Susan Bondie of Plymouth Township drew sharp criticism from Reaume, however, when she said it likely would take a fatality for township officials to change their minds on the cuts, and she "hopes and prays" it happens to a board member.

Reaume said the board has expressed civility toward citizens and said it would expect civility in return.

Atkins, who spoke before and after the board vote, said concessions proposed by the firefighters union have been disregarded by the board.

"Anger is making a lot of these decisions," he said. "The plan you guys have is a disservice to this community and I hope people remember it."

Resident supports cuts

While the public's comments all favored keeping the fire department intact, resident Paul Garon applauded the cuts after the meeting.

"I don't feel our service level is going to decrease," he said, citing the availability of paid on-call and mutual aid firefighters in the area.

Garon said many special assessments, such as what had been proposed to sustain fire services in the township, aren't used for their intended purposes. He said special assessments typically are used for roads or drain tiles for sections of townships, not for entire municipalities to sustain services such as fire staffing.

K. Henderson March 03, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Sorry, I meant to type know obviously. Typing a bit too fast.
parnell johnson March 03, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Rachel Where do you get your facts the fire dept, has not had any part paid firemen for at least 4 years and in 2004 had only 6 part paid left. The Township did not want to train them anymore after 2004. The trainer retired and the Township did not want to pay for a new trainer. Miosha came in saw no records of trainning, so no part paid could respond to any more runs, so they left the department.
parnell johnson March 03, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Well Greg looks like you gave up alot to thease Nuckel Heads and King Rauemeee, But I think they wanted your blood to, now I think its time TO CLEAN HOUSE OF THE KING AND HIS COURT. The Township does not even follow its own motto PEOPLE OUR OR PRIORITY. Maybe the residents should demand a 25% cut in Township Management and BROWN the Tosh Ma Hall a few days a week.
Rachel McMurphy March 03, 2012 at 03:46 PM
As a lifelong resident of plymouth township, I do know. I do know that for the past 30 years we've always had part-paid and full time firefighters and it's funny that no one hollered or screamed about that structure til now. The fire union initially wanted to give only $300,000 in concessions and waited until the very last minute to come up with the $700,000 in concessions. They played the game and lost because of their refusal to give up what the township originally wanted. If the union cares so much about the township residents, why didn't they give up those concessions to begin with? And you talk about mutual aid? Ask the union why that is? They had over 20 part-paid firefighters on staff at one time but drove them out because they didn't want to train them. Again, the union had every opportunity to keep their guys working but chose not too. They and themselves are the only ones to blame.
Rachel McMurphy March 03, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Why do you care Parnell? You don't even live in the township. Talk about a knucklehead.
parnell johnson March 03, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Well Rachel You may be a lifelong resident but you do not no the facts I worked as a Part Paid Firefighter First Responder for 25 years and I never saw 20 Part Paid even after the Merger so you must must set on your brains and yes I may not live in Ply. Twp. now but I still own properity there and pay taxes on it so I guess I have a right to voice my view, so who is the NUCKELHEAD.
Rachel McMurphy March 03, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Sorry Parnell..a family member of mine was a part-paid firefighter for plymouth township and there were well over 20 part-paid at that time. Perhaps your old age is causing you to have a selective memory.
parnell johnson March 03, 2012 at 04:42 PM
I am looking at my old call back list which ws always given out and I count 15 as of 2005 and I came on the dept in 1979 and at the merger there were 25 but within months (4) it dropped back to 15. SORRY, brain still works just fine.
K. Henderson March 03, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Repeating the same statements over and over, Ms. McMurphy, does not make them facts. I will not get in a game of verbal jousting because I have learned that it does not pay to argue with people who are ignorant. They will sink you to their level and then beat you with experience. No logic will change your mind. Have a great weekend.
Greg Mangan March 03, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Plymouth Township VS. Local 1496 2012 Proposed Budget: 2012 Proposed Budget: Expenditures - $3,025,233 Expenditures - $3,002,218 Difference ($23,015) (2012 Expenditures based upon 2010 Budget expenditures of $3,733,718 and projection that 2011 expenditures will be flat.)
Rebecca Jaskot (Editor) March 03, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Hey everyone. Please try to keep your comments about the issue and refrain from attacking or name-calling others. Comments that violate our terms of use will be deleted. Thanks!
PeteKautentayle March 03, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Surprised you take such a stand, Parnell, because our current firemen regularly say you part-timers aren't real firefighters, are not competent and they don't trust you in a fire - that's why you can't have paid on calls - or so they say. What do you say, were you incompetent when you were a paid on call?
Linda Johnson March 03, 2012 at 09:35 PM
You just made my point. There were plenty of part-paid firefighters helping the full time guys and things worked just fine back then. No one was crying foul over the part-paid guys. Get over it, the union blew it and had every chance to give the concessions and keep everyone working. They only have themselves to blame.
Linda Johnson March 03, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Well thanks K. Maybe I'm repeating the same things over and over because you can't quite comprehend them.
Thomas Wilson March 04, 2012 at 01:36 PM
There were no doubt some decent men and 1 woman lost in the cost cutting measure done by the TWP Board. It is a shame to see them go. The treasurer Greg seems to have put forth quite a comprehensive and well thought out plan for concessions. I believe the fact is that Mr Reaume wants to trim all unnecessary fat to the tax payers. He may eventually want to go to an all volunteer department like Plymouth city just did or have the Police Dept go PSO which is rumored to be in the works. Here is another fact: What Plymouth city did works. So far 2 "Fires" and both had over 20 Fire Fighters there ready to do the job. They have HVA as their primary ALS Transporting service which has been doing this in the TWP 10 years before the fire department decided to get into the game. So if anyone here thinks they are stealing jobs from the fire fighters, you are misinformed. It was their job to begin with. It would be great to get those lost 6 back but as of now that does not look as if it will happen. I hope they are well taken care of. @Dee Wilson. Sometimes PLY TWP has to call for mutual aid from surrounding departments because they are too busy which means there would be a delay in response for that unlucky individual as well. Aslo HVA does not respond lights and sirens to every call like the FD does. Most of the time that is unnecessary anyways and unsafe. There are studys to prove this.
Thomas Wilson March 04, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Also they, HVA, get dispatched to the call after the Fire Department does and that is one reason they may show up later eventhough the response times may be comparible. I certainly hope you were allright, even minor car accidents are a terrible matter to go through. I do not know if you remember the apartment building in the city that burnt down. Northville city was ready and willing to help with that tragedy. They had 20 guys ready to go in but due to "Union Politics" which N. city is not in the union, they were not called by PCFD to help. Union politics are not entirely innocent in the matter. And people please save your comments that may go like this " what if something happend to my baby? Or my children......" playing to emotions pretty much means you have lost the battle with logic and a reasoned argument.
Linda Johnson March 04, 2012 at 02:49 PM
I totally agree with you Tom. I especially liked how during the final days of the contract with the city of plymouth, the plymouth township firefighters were over at Tonquish Creek scaring the seniors. My mother, who happens to live there, was told by the township firefighters that because they no longer were going to service the city of plymouth, that now those seniors would have to wait for long periods of time before someone would even show up. This is fear mongering at it's worst and a pathetic attempt to scare people in order to get their own way.
Thomas Wilson March 04, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Well Linda, that is a shame. There are some real decent guys on the Plymouth Township department and I'm sure it wasn't those individuals but I do see it possible with a few. Too bad politics and self interest takes priority over public interaction. The great thing about a volunteer fire department is those that show up want to be there. To belittle them, to say that they are "Not real Fire Fighters", which HAS been said, is a self serving ignorant statement. If given the choice, I would rather have those that chose to help me than those who have to be there.
PeteKautentayle March 06, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Somebody please tell Parnell how to locate the spell checker and grammar checker on his computer. I can't take it anymore.
test1 March 06, 2012 at 04:48 AM
ffff
test1 March 06, 2012 at 04:49 AM
What a world we live in. The board is totalty at fault here. They have had more then ample time to come up with a solution that would work for the comunity, as well as for the fire department. Now on the other hand FACTS ARE FACTS. I have been reading all of the huplua on why the board is worng, as well as all of these layoffs that are going to reduce service. What a joke!!!! Simple solution lets start training, and talking about the 25 new Fire Fighters that were just hired by plymouth township to serve as part time paid on call!!! Couple that with the service that HVA can provide, and what do we have. Hmmmm lets see, we now have 15 full time, 25 part time paid on call, and at least one HVA crew. thats 42 guys at a fraction of the cost. What did we have last week, only 21 fire fighters. Look around the country we are not reventing the wheel here it works, paid on call/ shift work, does work and saves money. Lets get with the program, shovel all of the dog poop under the carpet, and direct the Full Timers to work with us!!!!!! Their is no reason that the part timers can not provide the level of service that is expected. Except the road block that the full timers are putting up.
ecnalubma March 07, 2012 at 06:55 AM
Both sides need to go back to their corners, lick their wounds, and get business done for everyone's sake. They need to get to the Business that they are sworn, or are charged to do! But, to think that the Fire Dept can go back to paid-on-call, this is not the community that it was 10-20 years ago.
tom kelly March 09, 2012 at 01:55 AM
I would suggest that "Rachel" , "Ecnalubma", PeteK...", PlymouthtTownshipResident /Frank, and other, 'POSTERS' HAVE THE BALLS TO SAY WHAT THEY'RE SAYING, AT A TWP BD. MEETING. RACHEL, ARE YOU A COWARD, OR WILL YOU COME FORWARD AT A BD. MEETING? PeteK. , I offered to meet you in the lobby last meeting (3-6-12), Where were you, you and Racheal are cowards. You hide behide a video screen.
PeteKautentayle March 09, 2012 at 02:21 PM
Are we allowed to say "Balls" on this website? Can we get a list of vulgar words we are allowed to use? This is going to be fun, circa George Carlin 1972.
Jane March 09, 2012 at 03:27 PM
So Tom..just exactly what do you expect to accomplish by meeting these people? Intimidation? Union thuggery? I've been with Rachel to the board meetings and your words are the very reason why most citizens won't come forward. You are the poster child for union thuggery and quite frankly, why would anyone want to engage in talks with someone like you whose only words involve calling people names?
PeteKautentayle March 09, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Jane, I did come to one meeting and they were picketing outside. I couldn't believe how rude they were to people that disagreed with them, shouting out insults while the person was speaking, 6 foot muscular man staring down old ladies, doing everything to intimidate. One union guy was actually yelling at an old, disabled man who disagreed with him. That's when I started to turn my views.
RIGHT VS WRONG March 10, 2012 at 03:40 AM
Jane, Pete K, and et al: Union thuggery? Read the above postings. "Chicken Little; "Jabba the Hut"; "knuckleheads", "Lazy, greedy, non-caring, selfish" etc. If you're willing to write these things, you should be willing to say them in public, to the individuals' face. In America, we have the right to face our accuser. Re; union thuggery, were you at last Thursdays' meeting to see the Bd, "bullying. Have you "YouTubed: Ron Edwards "9-1-1; & Blowout". Talk about thuggery! A female resident wrote a letter/email to all Bd members asking for a response to her concerns. She got a reponse from the Twp Treasure (Sic) saying simply, that she needed to check her grammar! Nice! Re: "too little, too late" (FF's concessionary offer of $700,000 vs the $300,000 the PD gave). So by that logic, if I asked my son to clean his room, and he didn't, but a week later, he offered to clean the whole house; I should say, "too little, too late". You're kicked out of the house, and you're going to a foster home! See ya. How many Taxpayer $, have been spent on "mailers: attorney fees, court fees, etc., fighting the 1st Amendment rights of Twp residents for a "1Mill" ballot question? $30,000-$50,000!
ERICK March 16, 2012 at 08:02 PM
FRANK , FOR PRESIDENT 2012
Maureen July 13, 2012 at 11:47 PM
I will use my name... Maureen Romboldi I am married to a firefighter. Who ever voted the Heath care reduction makes me sicker than I am. I have been ill for many years. A take numerous medications I was I shocked that I am paying $35 a script. This is sickening!! I is quite obvious your not ill. I can't believe this would happen. To not stand behind your own town ! It reminds me of Obama you could care less. Another person who doest stand behind his people. Shame on the town of Plymouth to act in a careless manner. You all should be ashamed of yourselfs! These firefighters work very hard to protect this town it's ok to build a school we didn't need. If the old one was taken care of we wouldn't have to build a school that is going to raise our taxes. Is this going to make the students smater? No!! How dare you decide to cut something as important as health insurance you all are a bunch of phonies!! You just sit there and decide to continue to open bars. We are not a historical town. If you want to become a alcoholic just come to Plymouth., but dont stand behind our firefighters! They save lifes all the time. Are you that dumb not to know this)). I hope you have some intelligence to Stand behind your department and give them back our health care.
Rudolph S Caparros Jr December 10, 2012 at 09:41 PM
HazMat Experts and Firefighters petition Dow Chemical and Union Pacific for safe rail tank cars transporting gas chlorine. Secondary containment is a necessary improvement that must be implemented. See--PETITION C KIT for First Responders Comments.

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