Layoffs continue, fire station No. 2 is closed
March 8, 2012 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
At a special meeting of the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees last Thursday, board members voted 6-1 to immediately lay off six firefighters, leaving a full-time staff of 14 to protect a community of 28,000 residents.
Following an emotionally charged meeting, Fire Chief Mark Wendel was ordered by Supervisor Richard Reaume at about 9:30 p.m. March 1 to immediately implement the layoffs. Wendel subsequently ordered the shift captain on duty to inform the affected firefighters to leave their stations immediately. The fire- fighters were told that arrangements would be made for them to retrieve their personal belongings from the station sometime later.
Fire Station No, 2 in Lake Pointe was immediately closed and the lieutenant there moved to Station No. 1. flyers were posted throughout the Lake Pointe subdivision on Tuesday, announcing the closing. The flyers announced that there is now a maximum staffing level of five firefighters to “cover the entire township.”
The layoffs eliminate the township eligibility and participation in Mutual Aid. Should there be a major disaster or fire in the township, public safety departments from neighboring communities would not respond with personnel or equipment. Plymouth Township would not respond to major fires or disasters in neigh- boring communities, either, as they are now not within the staffing levels required to participate in the Mutual Aid agreements. Township officials have said they will now depend on a cadre of on-call volunteer fire fighters in cases of emergency. The volunteers are called by the dispatcher from their homes, travel to the fire station and then to the reported incident. In 911 medical emergencies, Huron Valley Ambulance, based in Ann Arbor, will respond, according to the township. During the meeting March 1, officials from Huron Valley Ambulance confirmed that not all their responders are Advanced Life Support certified and some are not full- fledged paramedics.
Reports indicate that the town- ship has agreed to a contract with Huron Valley Ambulance to provide services for one year. The ongoing controversy stemmed from a fire department operating budget deficit estimated at about $900,000 which resulted when the City of Plymouth opted to disengage from the long-standing joint operating agreement with the township to provide fire protection services to both communities. The firefighters union and township officials have been in contract negotiations for months and recently, the union offered the township about $23,000 more in wage and benefit cuts than the township had requested. Township officials rejected that union offer. The township and the firefighters union are currently in mandated arbitration.
An attempt to allow residents to vote on a millage to fund the fire department was thwarted by township officials who increased the 1- mill requested by residents’ petitions to 10 mills after being ordered by the courts to place the issue on the ballot. That request failed at the polls last Tuesday, 1,247 to 6,517.