Protesters demand fire millage vote
November 17, 2011 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
A large crowd of demonstrators marched outside Plymouth Township Hall Tuesday evening just prior to a scheduled meeting of the board of trustees, attempting to get the attention of the elected officials.
It may have worked.
The marchers carried signs with the message, “We Support Our Firefighters” and “We Risk Our Lives To Save Yours.”
Township Hall was filled to capacity with residents who inundated the board members with pleas to place a millage question on the Feb. 28 ballot to support the fire department.
One of the speakers, retired Circuit Court Judge Marvin Stempien Jr., reminded the board members that they could put this question on the ballot by a simple majority vote adopting a resolution. He cited Michigan Law, MCL41-801, and said he was making his request again for them to “use your lawful authority to put a levy of additional millage on the ballot.” He reminded the board members that they could have taken this action long ago as it is within their legal authority.
While Township Supervisor Richard Reaume attempted to silence Stempien by enforcing the regular time limit on speakers, the crowd erupted with shouts of “Let him speak.”
Stempien ended his remarks with a heartfelt, “Let us vote.”
A citizens group presented petitions to the board prior to the November ballot with 3,500 signatures, which the board rejected claiming there were questions about the correct owners of property. The Citizens Action Group met last Wednesday and organizers said they have turned in more petitions and affidavits clarifying the ownership of land parcels.
The petitions ask that the board place the question of a 1-mill dedicated assessment on the ballot to support the fire department. If successful that would generate about$1.5 million each year and cost the average homeowner about $75.
“That’s not much when you are talking about your life,” noted resident Don Howard, who has been actively attempting to bring the issue to a vote.
The most significant comment at the meeting of the Citizen’s Action Group may come from Township Clerk Joe Bridgeman,
According to both Firefighters Union Treasurer Greg Mangan and Howard, Bridgeman was in the audience and near the end of the citizens Action Group meeting was asked questions by several of those in attendance. He reportedly told the crowd that he was unable to speak for the entire board and that he had differing views.
“There are a couple of people who are driving the whole thing. One person is driving everything,” he allegedly said. “I am one vote.”
Bridgeman went on to tell the group that their efforts had little effect on the decisions of the board members.
“You are going to have to inundate them with letters and emails,” he said.
Bridgeman’s comments followed a presentation by Mangan, which included a model of the changes the township is reportedly ready to make to the fire department, including the closure of the Lake Pointe Station No. 2 and the reduction of the staff to 12 full- time firefighters who would work 12 hour days on weekdays only.
Residents would rely on a non-paramedic, part-time staff during nights and weekends, according to the model Mangan presented.
Mangan indicated that the Plymouth department would lose the current paramedic licensure under this plan and receive no mutual aid for medical emergencies should it be adopted. “Our citizens will have to rely on a non-dedicated private ambulance company,” he said.
Huron Valley Ambulance (HVA) would be the company of choice, according to Howard. Currently, whenever the Plymouth EMS unit is dispatched, HVA is simultaneously dis- patched. Under a current directive form the township, HVA is allowed to transport patients and bill their insurance carriers for the service while the township fire department is prohibited from providing, and billing for, the same service.
“The Plymouth Community Fire Department is the only fire department in Wayne County not providing paramedic transport,” Mangan said.
Howard claims that Northville took over the transport of patients from HVA and generated nearly $800,000 in the first six months of the change.
Concerns regarding response time were also addressed.
Mangan said that the current response time of the Plymouth Township Department is 4 minutes and 45 seconds. “With HVA, the response time is unpredictable. They say they can respond within 10 minutes, 90 per- cent of the time, but there is no guarantee,” Mangan said.
Township officials have said the fire department budget issues are predicated on the loss of more than $1 million in revenue from the decision of the City of Plymouth to leave the joint fire services agreement with the township. That change takes effect in January.
At the board meeting Tuesday, Mangan presented a plan which included $344,000 in department concessions from employees and an estimated $400,000 by allowing the department to assume the emergency response transport services.
“This is what we feel is meeting halfway, Mangan
The board tabled the expected vote on the budget Tuesday.