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Posted on Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor administrator tells City Council closing fire stations is not on his agenda now

By Ryan J. Stanton


Fire Station 1 downtown is one of five fire stations in Ann Arbor. All five stations will stay open now that a reorganization proposal officially has been tabled.

Joseph Tobianski |

City Administrator Steve Powers has told the Ann Arbor City Council in an email he won't be pursuing reducing the number of fire stations in the city — at least for now.

Fire Chief Chuck Hubbard told 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.


Steve Powers

"My decision was to go forward with it. It's been that way all along," he said.

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 Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 8:15 p.m.

This decision is a relief to us. Thank you, Mr. Powers.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 3:08 p.m.

i think you know that i do not think the art commission is one of my favorite departments. i just think you can use the money better. here is an example of where the mil can help out. to me art is down the list of important things that need to be done or fixed. if we had tons of money laying around art would be ok. but during hard times. we need to look at what we can do. i know when i am short of money i prioritize my spending. art before fire, police and streets repairs is a no brainier.


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 5:47 p.m.

I agree and lets add eliminating the subsidized city golf courses to that priority and save another 700,000 dollars in tax money going into a hole in the ground.

Jack Eaton

Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 3:07 p.m.

I agree with Stephen Ranzini that this is just a matter of common sense. The City Council as currently configured seems to have a better grasp of what residents actually expect from city government. This plan was shelved in recognition that it lacked majority support on Council. In reference to the consolidation plan, the Fire Chief said "He considers that the safest and most efficient response model given the fire department's current staffing resources." In other words, if we are going to keep all five stations open, as we should, it will require additional fire fighters. With either the current five stations or the proposed three stations, the city would not come close to achieving nationally recognized standards for fire response times. We need sufficient fire staffing to accomplish the 4 fire fighters within 4 minutes and 15 fire fighters within 8 minutes. Anything less is a breach of the city's duty to protect its citizens.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

THough based on the limited info I have I am against closing of fire stations, I think the decision to "table" this is poor. Basically NO DECISION was made here. A administrator simply decided "not to deal with it". We have a paid professional (the fire chief) who thinks this is a good idea, and it may be, but as a city the decision was made not to investigate, research, and figure out what is best. This is simply a non decision to keep the status quo, good or bad. I expect more from our leaders. Fire Safety is an important issue, simply to just keep doing it the same old way despite staffing cutbacks. When do we get to have some real leadership in our city!!!!


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 5:45 p.m.

Prevo, you're absolutely right that paid "professionals" often don't know anything....just look at our "professional educators" when it comes to operating the public school system. Why we would take the advice of a long time firefighter over a bean counter is in fact baffling.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 9:35 p.m.

"paid professional" doesn't mean there is any "common sense" in the plan. There are plenty of people that are not fire chiefs who can see that the plan was endangering lives and property in the areas where stations would have been shut down.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 2:47 p.m.

Finally someone with real smarts!


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 9:28 p.m.

@Bob, better rolling closures than closed all the time. Smart thing would be to staff all the time.

Basic Bob

Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 6:38 p.m.

We'll see how smart it is when stations can't send out the closest truck because they are one man short. Or the fire chief may have to do rolling closures and play response time roulette.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 1:56 p.m.

"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." How many people even showed up for the meetings? Not many. Plenty of blogging and voicing of opinions but when given the opportunity to speak directly with those involved no one shows up.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 3:26 p.m.

That comment was to "gofigure".


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 3:25 p.m.

Did you go? Did you count heads?

Jack Eaton

Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 3:17 p.m.

I attended the first meeting on September 18, at Cobblestone Farm and the last meeting on September 27 at Lawton Elementary School Auditorium. Both were well attended (there were more than 60 people at Lawton). A friend attended the meeting on September 25 at Traverwood Library and said there was a fairly good turn out. I learned that the meeting at the downtown library was attended by only one person, but that may have to do with how inconvenient it is to go downtown or how little impact the plan would have on the downtown area. The consistent message conveyed by residents to city staff was that we expect the city to place higher priority on public safety than some of these other projects the city pursues. I don't recall hearing anyone (other than city staff) express support for the idea that we should have fewer fire stations.

Linda Peck

Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 1:24 p.m.

The people have voted, again. I am very grateful for this news.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

I hope this rings true. After all, Snyder said RTW wasn't on his agenda and then PRESTO! You've been duped!


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 5:40 p.m.


Basic Bob

Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 12:57 p.m.

I'm surprised no one in city government could find a number between 3 and 5.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 12:25 p.m.

Please continue fighting the folly, Mr. Powers! Public safety trumps folly projects every time, every day, every night, every year. Thank you for doing your job on behalf of ordinary citizens and families!

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 12:04 p.m.

Excellent! A victory for common sense!

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 11:44 a.m.

"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". Funny how electing more representatives to City Council who aren't puppets of the Mayor will change the political climate and culture for decisions such as this. Lol.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 11:38 a.m.

Finally, someone with some real smarts. Thank you for tabling, and probably should just throw the idea into the trash, the closing of any fire departments. Thankfully, we have a very dedicated group of firefighters who continually do an awesome job even though short staffed. God Bless you all.


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 4:55 p.m.

Trust me... he's no expert.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 5:30 p.m.

It was tabled by the city administrator who is probably not a fire expert vs the fire chief who I would expect to be a fire expert and who still feels the reorg would best meet fire fighting needs.