The Ypsilanti budget cut showdown is just minutes away… What will it mean for our Fire Department?

Later this evening, in a special session of City Council, our elected leaders will be debating what to do about the proposed budget cuts that we discussed here on New Years Day. No doubt the cutting of police and fire fighters will be the most contentious. (80% of the City Manager’s proposed cuts are to come from our police and fire departmens, with the remaining 20% coming from other City departments.) According to, the firefighters union, not wanting to see the department cut from 18 to 12, is fighting the layoffs, which, if voted positively on, would occur in March. Here’s a clip:

The layoffs would occur in March to save roughly $430,000 this year, (City Manager Ed Koryzno) said…

But firefighters said going to 12 – with an average age of the firefighters approaching 50 – will fundamentally change what they’re trained to do and what the public expects them to do when buildings burn. The department once numbered 30 firefighters.

“That will drastically change how we do business,” said Richard Barnabo, who has spent more than a decade with the department. “We’ll become a defensive fire department, and not an aggressive one.”

Federal standards dictate a firefighter must be accompanied by at least one other firefighter into a burning building. Two more and a supervisor also should be outside, ready to coordinate and perform any rescue.

The two-in, two-out rule is among several arguments the firefighters plan to make over the next several weeks in a campaign to rally public support to save jobs, said union president Ken Hobbs…

Asked for a quote on the subject, City Councilman Pete Murdock had the following to say:

As far as the question on the fire department staffing and the two in two out rule and changing to a two platoon system, I’m all ears, But you can’t reduce the number of hours in the week by cutting the number of people available. So there seems to me to be a math problem. It takes 4.2 persons at 40 hours a week to provide one person 24/7 (not factoring in vacations and sick days). So either the new shifts of six persons are going to work 84 hours a week or there will only be three persons available on a shift. The “new” math doesn’t add up. That’s what the meeting tonight is for…

As for background, the City Manager’s proposed cuts can be found in their entirety here, for those who are interested. And, the cuts proposed by City Councilman Pete Murdock can be found here.

I don’t know what other options we have at this point, as we’ve been so incredibly ineffective at creating other sources of revenue (i.e. Water Street), but I can’t imagine a City of our size relying on just 12 firefighters. One hopes that some kind of compromise is reached. (If anyone wants to put together a protest in Lansing, demanding that the State begin contributing toward the services provided to Eastern Michigan University, let me know. I’d love to do some chanting.)

The meeting starts at 6:00, so you’d better leave now if you want a good seat.

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  1. Picante Bobbie
    Posted January 11, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    Is Murdock really proposing we eliminate our police department and contract with the County for sheriff services? I guess that’s what the police union gets for endorsing his opponent???

  2. Edward
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Why don’t we just pass a law that says we all have to be armed at all times? Then we wouldn’t need cops at all.

  3. Brackinald Achery
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    A tempting idea, Edward, but I think it’s wrong to force people who are against guns to carry them. Though I certainly believe those who aren’t against carrying them should not be bothered by anybody for exercising their rights, and that maybe that would help prevent some crime. Or at least deter individual dead criminals from victimizing anyone ever again.

  4. Chaterine Heinz
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Andy Ypsilanti was at last night’s meeting and left the following recap in another post.

    The YFD and YPD will be up against it with these cuts. The YPD will loose 5 officers, a lieutenant, and all of it’s dispatchers are being transferred to the county. So not only do you loose one officer per shift over four shifts and a supervisor, but now the on duty officers must answer all non emergency calls to the station. To her credit, when asked if the department was capable of coping with these cuts, Chief Walker answered, “We’re the YPD. We can do anything.” 32 total police employees to cover a city the size of Ypsilanti. I hope they can.

    The YFD will be down to 14 members. Let me say it again. The YFD will be down to 14 members. There will be two platoons, with 6 members each. Two of these will be rotated off at any given time. Remember, firefighters don’t work in shifts, they work for days at a time, 24 hours a day. That means four total firefighters on duty at any time. Federal standards dictate that there must be 5 firefighters on the scene in order to enter a burning building; a commander, 2 in and 2 out. That means waiting for help from a nearby department. But all of the near by departments are cutting, too. So who’s left to help? And this is just fires we are talking about, not rescues, or car crashes or downed wires or any thing else that firefighters do. Oh, also, because cuts are done by seniority, the average age of the YFD becomes 48. And what do you think this kind of staffing will do to your homeowner’s insurance rates?

    Councilmen Murdock and Robb question the math of these cuts. Their calculations on overtime needed to make up for things like vacation or sick days, or the suggestion that the YFD could adhere to the “2 in 2 out” rule with the proposed staffing were staggering, and I hope they make them available soon. I think they could shed some light on the over numbers for the proposed cuts. If there is any validity to the numbers they mentioned, overtime pay would total more than that of several firefighters or police officers. If the math is really as far off as they suggest, then Mr. Koryzno will need to explain his figures very thoroughly.

    Both union heads urged the city not to make any cuts until the end of the fiscal year in June when the next round of collective bargaining begins. Both indicated that they were willing to make cuts, and suggested that concessions were offered and roundly rejected. Buy outs and early retirement were also mentioned. It was also pointed out that, if all of the city’s budget needs are met by laying off officers and firefighters on March first, the unions don’t have much incentive to make more concessions on July first.

  5. Elyse the Sea Slug
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Just so I’m clear. Are we saying that we’ll have 14 firefighters going forward, or 12? I thought the City Manager was taking about eliminating 6 jobs, bringing the number to 12. Was it decided last night that there was funding to save 2 of those jobs?

  6. Posted January 12, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    I think 14 was a typo, because the very next sentance says “there will be two platoons, with 6 members each.”

  7. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    14 is the correct number, but that includes the chief. I can’t account for the one other person, but from what I read in the budget proposal I can only assume that is an administrative position as well.

  8. Posted January 12, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the report, Andy.

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