Four Firefighters get Six More Months of Work

Four Firefighters get Six More Months of WorkJudyPalmer01

(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 17, 2013)

Ferndale City Council members are giving the Ferndale Fire Department until the end of the year to come up with a way to afford four firefighters who have been working under a SAFER grant.  The budget calls for the FFD to have 25 on staff, but for two years there have been 29 thanks to the Federal funding.

The grant is not renewable, and the men were slated to be laid off.  But at the budget meeting of April 16, Council members agreed not to lay them off until the end of the year.  The decision gives the department a window of time to come up with alternatives.

Fire Chief Kevin Sullivan has been communicating with neighboring cities to try and come up with a f115orangeplan for shared services or possibly even a regional fire authority.  Neighboring cities have been discussing combining departments for the past several years, however the challenge is that there is an upfront cost and savings can take two or more years to be realized.  A previous attempt to merge with Hazel Park was tabled due to the costs involved.

Currently FFD provides fire and ambulance service to Pleasant Ridge on a contract basis. Sullivan said that talks are progressing with other neighboring communities and he’s confident that shared services arrangements will be clear in the coming months “now that other cities are feeling the crunch.”

Council members agreed to dip into the General Fund in order to retain the four firefighters through the end of the year, at a cost of $186,143.  In a later interview Sullivan called the decision “gracious,” adding “it’s not a cost savings in any way.  In fact it has a cost, but it allows us to maintain our service levels.”

Councilperson Scott Galloway agreed to the extension, but shared his concern.  “I’m supportive of keeping these guy on six more months, but we’re kicking the can down the road.  I don’t see a cost essentialsavings on the horizon,” he said.  Overall the city is hurting financially due to decreased property taxes and cuts to revenue sharing by the state.  “It’s been open season on cities by Republicans in Lansing,” he said.  “A lot of things have changed [in recent years].”

Councilperson Melanie Piana was more optimistic.  “Seven extra months would help us come up with a model,” she said.

The General Fund currently has a $5,429,402 balance, which is 32% of expenses. Because expenses rise and taxes collected are expected to decline, the fund is projected to dip below 30% in the next few years even if no additional expenses are approve to come from the fund.  Experts generally agree that cities should maintain at least 15% in this fund for emergencies.

Council is currently going through the budget process to try and trim $1 million from the bottom line.  The budget is expected to be voted on at the April 29 City Council meeting, and will be available online prior to that meeting.  The City’s website is http://www.ferndale-mi.com/.

 

 

 

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