Ann Arbor administrator tells City Council closing fire stations is not on his agenda now
Joseph Tobianski | AnnArbor.com
Fire Chief Chuck Hubbard told AnnArbor.com on Wednesday the decision was made by the city administrator to put the fire department reorganization proposal on the shelf.
"It got put on hold," he said. "They haven't made a decision either way, yes or no."
Hubbard said it's still his opinion the city should go forward with a reorganization that involves switching from a five-station model to a three-station model. He considers that the safest and most efficient response model given the fire department's current staffing resources.
The tabling of the plan appeared almost inevitable, though. For the last several months, there hadn't been any political will on the City Council to take up the controversial issue.
Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, said on Wednesday he's glad to hear the city's administration is not pursuing closing fire stations at this point.
Hubbard presented a plan to the City Council last March that called for operating three fire stations in the city: Station 5 on the north side, Station 2 on the south side and Station 1 downtown.
That would have required reopening Station 2 at Stadium and Packard, which was closed several years ago, and closing Station 3 at 2130 Jackson Ave., Station 4 at 2415 Huron Parkway, and Station 6 at 1881 Briarwood Circle.
When Powers and Hubbard went out to the community to get feedback, they encountered opposition from residents who feared the plan wouldn't work out as well as some hoped.
Based on a budget planning retreat held last month, the City Council agreed it should focus on five priority areas, including the city budget and fiscal discipline, public safety, infrastructure maintenance and transportation in the urban core, economic development and affordable housing.
Those priorities provide policy direction for the city's staff to develop work plans and for the city administrator to develop budget recommendations that will come out later this spring.
Powers said work plans will be drafted over the course of January and February. He said the "success statement" for the fire department reads: "Fire station locations, number, and infrastructure are optimized to meet community needs and industry standards, within city resources."
The number and location of fire stations, Powers told council members in an email this month, should not be decided independent of the work plan that accomplishes the success statement.
Hubbard said he doesn't expect the fire department to see any reductions in the coming budget cycle with the city projecting a $1.3 million surplus in the general fund. The Ann Arbor Fire Department has 86 full-time employees and a budget that totals about $14 million.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.