Board reduces qualifications for firefighters
September 22, 2011 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
How long will it take a part-time firefighter who lives 15 miles out- side Plymouth Township to respond to an alarm within the township boundaries?
That’s one question residents and some full-time firefighters in the 21-man department are asking after a vote of the board of trustees last week expanded the distance a part-time firefighter can live outside the township from 10 to 15 miles.
The board also relaxed the training requirements for part-time firefighters, requiring that they need Firefighter I certification, rather than the Firefighter II classification that was previously required. Additionally, the board members raised the pay rate for such part-time firefighters to $18 per hour for training time and $23 per hour for alarm calls. Formerly, the rate for these part-time employees was $15 per hour, whether in training or emergency response.
“Are you guys having a hard time finding fire fighters to meet the qualifications?” asked town- ship firefighter Jim Harrell.
Some residents, like Don Howard, who has lived in the town- ship for 30 years, were unhappy with the decisions the board members made in an effort to fill the $1 million budget deficit created when the City of Plymouth opted to leave the joint fire department arrangement with Plymouth Township. The city has moved to a similar joint arrangement with the City of Northville which will become effective early next year.
“We paid $1 million in tax money to have these guys certified in Advanced Life Support and we’re now throwing that all away. It just doesn’t make sense,” Howard said.
Howard also said he had other questions for the board members who rejected petitions containing 3,500 signatures requesting a 1- mill special assessment be placed on a ballot so voters could determine the level of fire protection they were willing to fund in the township.
Howard also was critical of the rejection of an $880,000 federal grant by the township. To accept the grant, the township would have to have a mandated staffing level and full-time department, and guarantee no layoffs in the department for two years. The board members and administration are opposed to those conditions, Howard noted, because they are determined to move to a part-time department.
Township Clerk Joe Bridgeman cast the only dissenting vote on the motions to reduce the qualifications and increase the pay of part-time fire fighters while allowing them to live as far as 15 miles from the township border.
Fire Chief Mark Wendel did not attend the meeting.