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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.

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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