Source: Sherman Publications

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Viewpoints on township fire mill issue, candidacies
Fire millage

May 23, 2012

Dear Editor,

In the last three years, Independence fire services have undergone two cost-cutting reorganizations.

First, the positions of assistant fire chief and administrative specialist were eliminated with administrative duties taken up by Chief Steve Ronk and two administrative positions. And one firefighter was eliminated from each shift, with a plan to expand the role of part-time firefighters to provide the necessary coverage.

In the second round, three positions were set for elimination by attrition, the fire inspector, fire marshal, and emergency medical services coordinator. Chief Ronk has worked hard and smart to extend the useful life of fire and fire service equipment. The firefighters union voluntarily shifted their scheduled pay increase for 2010 to cover a portion of their healthcare expense.

In the most recent contract negotiations, the firefighters union makes significant money-saving concessions including ending longevity payments, no wage increases through the end of the contract in 2014, and restructured healthcare plan.

This vital community service has continued to perform to the high standards we have come to expect and rely on. The expansion in 2000 added emergency medical services has saved many lives and prompt, quality care has meant a better quality of life for many, many more.

The entire millage that pays for these services expires at the end of this year. Chief Ronk and his staff have examined, and re-examined with a sharp pencil, the expected costs needed to maintain service levels. In several sessions, they have presented their analysis to the Township Board.

Although service levels have been maintained after the cost cutting, some adjustments need to be made. Replacing some firefighters with part-timers has not worked out to be as effective as planned. We have been fortunate it has not yet been a service problem, but we cannot rely on hope for the future.

These goals, maintaining current service levels and having reliable equipment, cannot be accomplished by renewing the existing 3.1688 mills. I favor .59 additional mills because I believe it is necessary and the community will understand the need and importance for all of us.

Neil E. Wallace

Independence Township