September 22, 2011 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Once again, the actions of the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees has us somewhat puzzled.
We fully understand the financial constraints that plague nearly every municipality in the area-budget cuts an subsequent service cuts are becoming more the norm than anyone would like to admit. In Plymouth Township, where the fire department budget faces a $1 million loss with the withdrawal of the City of Plymouth from a joint services agreement, difficult decisions and choices have to be made.
But still, some of these decisions are curious, at best.
Take for instance the choice to refuse an $800,000 federal grant from the Federal Emergency Management Authority. Township officials reportedly refused to apply for of secure the grant funding because they did not want to have to guarantee no layoffs of staffing in the fire department for two years. Maintaining a specific level of staffing is a requirement of the grant to which township officials did not want to commit.
OK, perhaps they had their reasons. Maybe they are so unsure of their budget projections they did not want to be in the position of promising to maintain a specific level of firefighter staffing per population for two years. Except that the funding might have filled nearly half the budget gap created with the departure of the city from the joint agreement.
We had questions recently when the board members refused to acknowledge the will of the public, about 3,500 of them, who wanted a special assessment to pay for fire protection on the ballot. Board members were unsupportive of the effort and the township clerk denied the validity of many signatures even those of condominium owners who, officials claim, do not actually own the land on which their homes are constructed, or so the audience at the board meeting was informed, so were not actual “landowners” and could not sign the petition.
Frankly, we’re still shaking our heads about that one, but we aren’t attorneys and are all too familiar with the vagaries of various laws which we find pretty confusing occasionally.
But while the letter of the law is often confusing, the intent is usually, if not always, clear. People should be given a chance to choose their own path in a democratic society. Residents in Plymouth Township are being denied that opportunity.
Now the board members have agreed to increase the distance a part-time, on call firefighter can live from the township borders from 10 to 15 miles. That seems like a big deal to us, especially since the board also reduced the qualifications for these part-time firemen to Firefighter I rather than Firefighter II classification. To sweeten the pot even a bit more to entice prospective part-time on –call firefighters to work with the township, they then increased the pay rate for them.
Township officials are determined, it would appear, to rid the community of a professional, full-time fire department with Advanced Life Support service. They would rather have a comparatively untrained, part-time, out of the area on call department which will, we can only presume, cost much less.
It appears the board members intend to depend on police officers as first-responders to provide initial medical aid to victims of disasters or on a private ambulance company to respond to medical emergency calls.
And each of the board members seems adamant that this is the best course of action for the community, despite the stated wish of many residents to put the issue of an assessment to pay for the professional service available in the past on the ballot.
They will remain, adamant, we suspect, until one of them or their family needs Advanced Life Support, or their home, heaven forbid, falls prey to a raging blaze.
Then, we predict, their attitude about the necessity and value of a professional, full-time fire department will change very quickly.
We know ours did.