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Posted on Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 5:55 a.m.

Dexter firefighters want village included in name of new combined department

By Lisa Allmendinger


Jason Hilberer, president of the Dexter Firefighters Association, addresses the Dexter Village Council about firefighter concerns.

Lisa Allmendinger |

What’s in a name?

When it comes to finding the right one for a proposed regional department that would combine the Dexter Area Fire Department and the Scio Fire Department, it’s become a stumbling block.

Firefighters from the Dexter Area Fire Authority as well as several elected officials from Dexter, Dexter Township and Webster Township have expressed concerns about dropping Dexter from the proposed name for a fire department that has covered the Dexter area since 1890.

The name for the proposed combined department is Washtenaw Fire and Rescue.

Jason Hilberer, president of the 40-member Dexter Firefighters Association, told the Dexter Village Council Monday night that firefighters had concerns about not just the name for the department but also merging 45 employees from two departments with no concrete management plan.

Both departments have full-time and paid-on-call firefighters.

“We are not trying to undermine it, we’re all for it. We don’t think there should have been a split in the first place,” Hilberer said of a combined department.

However, the firefighters are seriously opposed to a name change.

Village President Shawn Keough said that the committee hasn’t defined an organizational structure because none of the committee members are firefighters and they wanted to leave the structure up to a new chief.

The plan is to have both current chiefs run their departments as deputy chiefs until a new chief is selected by a new fire administrative board. “We’re trying not to get caught in a trap of micro-managing,” Keough said, reiterating that there would be at least five full-time shifts, two in the village, one in Dexter Township and two shifts in Scio Township.


Scio Township Trustee David Read

Lisa Allmendinger |

Hilberer said that he’d like to see two firefighters from both departments be involved in the process and said that the Dexter department had stayed out of the process until the last two or three months when there was a “pretty steady push forward.”

He also presented the Village Council with a petition to preserve the name “Dexter Area Fire Department,” saying that all but four firefighters in the department signed the petition and two of those firefighters aren’t active and two are members of both the Dexter and Scio departments and felt it was a conflict of interest.

“We know the name is a sticky subject … it’s a new beginning, but we’re not forgetting the past,” Keough said. “I don’t know that a new name is such a bad thing, but that doesn’t mean that we’re forgetting who we are.”

Hilberer said the firefighters “don’t feel there’s a need for a name change,” and asked the Dexter Village Council for “your support and protection, just as we’ve supported and protected Dexter for the last 122 years.” The Dexter Fire Department began in 1890 and since its inception has provided fire protection for Dexter and the surrounding townships of Dexter, Webster and Lima townships.

“The Dexter Area Fire Department provided fire and rescue protection to Scio Township from 1890 to 1987 under the name “Dexter Area Fire Department” until Scio Township formed its own department in 1988 and separated from the Dexter Fire Department,” a petition to preserve the Dexter Area Fire Department states.

Elected officials from Dexter Village and the townships of Webster, Scio and Dexter have been meeting for two years discussing the regionalization of the two departments as a way to provide increased service to the area.

Last month, elected officials met to discuss a proposed interlocal agreement and some Webster Township officials had some concerns about the proposed name of the combined department as well as the benefits for its township residents.

Keough said that the committee had worked on a four-page letter that addressed many of the Webster Township elected officials’ concerns, which would be released later this week.

Following an about 45-minute discussion of the issue, Scio Township Trustee David Read and member of the committee that put together the interlocal agreement, said he was “very disappointed” in what he was hearing from the firefighters and board members - especially since none of these concerns were mentioned at last month’s combined meeting of elected officials from the member municipalities.

He said the combined department “minimizes risk and allows the departments to grow into the future. Now I hear we’re focused on the past. They (Dexter) will lose their name, but so will Scio Township. This is a slap in the face of the Scio Fire Department, their sacrifice and their hard work of the last 25 years.”

He said a combined department “will provide better service, more opportunity, and bigger better grants and the new name is an opportunity.” Lisa Allmendinger is a regional reporter for She can be reached at For more Dexter area stories, visit our Dexter page.



Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 11:37 p.m.

How about: Dexter-Scio Fire and Rescue? Sounds like a winner to me!


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 11:24 p.m.

This is not just about a merger between the fire departments and changing the Dexter area fire department name it is also to save money which I can understand with the economy the way it is. Just so all the residence served by Dexter area fire are aware it may not be the same any more your fire chief assistant fire chiefs are full-time and volunteer may not be there anymore so to all those residents who had a security blanket it just was pulled away. Thank you Dexter area supervisor,Scio supervisor, and all the others that have had a hand in this. Stop by yourDexter area fire department and show your support. Call your Township officials let them know how you feel.


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 1:04 a.m.

SCIO fire, to merge with Dexter area fire is a good thing for the residences after all it is about the residences. Dexter is a well-established department for the two fire departments to merge will give a lot of coverage for all of us. But why do you think you should have the right to demand Dexter area fire to change their name you are joining their department. Dexter is not asking to join yours I think before this goes any further you should think hard on this or just stay SCIO fire.

Fat Bill

Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 11:02 p.m.

Out west, we had fire districts, with very exciting names like "Grays Harbor County Fire District #7"...zzz Have a naming contest, with residents from all over the proposed area eligible to participate, vote on the best name, hold a celebration to mark the event and move forward. Don't let something silly like a name disagreement derail this project. From the outside looking in, it seems rather petty...


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 9:09 p.m.

I think that if the Fire Fighters don't have a problem with keeping the name, the politicians should get over themselves and start supporting the wishes of the real men doing the job. Firefighters take a lot of pride in what they do as well as the history of their department. Scio would be re-joining a department that they were a part of for nearly 100 years. While they did a fine job on their own, together both departments will be stronger and more efficient.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 9:08 p.m.

For Mr. Read, calling your new Department the "Washtenaw Fire & Rescue" is considered a bit of a "slap in the face" to the other Departments of Washtenaw County as well. If you haven't picked up on the clue that tradition is important to those of us in the fire service, here's your clue.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 9:01 p.m.

Dexter Area Wide Fire & Rescue is my vote. Though West Washtenaw Fire & Rescue does leave the door open for more consolidation in the future.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 6:33 p.m.

Why not Western Washtenaw Fire and Rescue? I know some think the name change is a slap in the face of a long standing department, however why not look to a new name to reflect a new joint effort for residents in the Western Washtenaw County?


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 1:53 a.m.

Well, there is Sylvan, Lima, Lyndon, etc. townships in western Washtenaw County. So Western Washtenaw would not work in my opinion.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 8:16 p.m.

Just what I was thinking. Though I am kind of a history guy and I would not want to be one who put an end to anything historic

Henry Ruger

Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 2:21 p.m.

I suggest "Michigan Fire and Rescue." Why stop at Washtenaw County? But seriously... Dexter's the big dog, so to speak (well, maybe the biggest fish in a small pond), so their name should obviously be in the department's name, especially given local history. What's wrong with "Dexter Area Fire and Rescue"? "Dexter Area Fire Dept" has the acronym DAFD, which might seem almost daft to some. We in Webster Twp and the folks in Scio Twp probably won't pout too long if our names aren't in the title.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

Washtenaw Fire and Rescue does not describe the location of these fire departments. As others said, it sounds like Washtenaw County has one big fire organization, like the sheriff department. Dexter Area is much more descriptive.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

As I said yesterday, a few years back, Scio was all hot to separate and leave Dexter Area Fire Dept. Now they want to merge. Of course they don't want the name Dexter. They're eating crow. Merging may be the right answer. Let's welcome them back without a name change.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

The name "Washtenaw Fire and Rescue" implies a county wide department. Is there a hope for additional growth throughout the county? Do they hope to merge in the future with Chelsea, Saline, Ypsi, maybe even Willow Run? Perhaps our Dexter Firefighters are thinking towards that future and want to remain associated with our quiet little village and not be associated with the crime and blight of Ypsi and Willow Run should that merger ever occur.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 8:13 p.m.

I agree. Maybe "Western Washtenaw Fire and Rescue"


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

Fordie, after seeing your comment I reread mine. It does come across as an insult and I could have worded it better, I apologize for that. It was not intended that way but facts are facts. Crime is certainly on a rise in the Dexter area but I have lived in both communities and Dexter is not only a safer area, people are just friendlier and smile at each other and say hello here more often. I don't think you would argue that the communities are quite different that the statistics of violent crimes support the claim. Ypsi has some wonderful features about it, however, the negative news seems to far outweight the positive.


Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

I agree that "Washtenaw Fire and Rescue" sounds like it is for a county-wide department, but your comment about the "crime and blight" of Ypsi and Willow Run was a slap in the face.

Chip Reed

Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 12:09 p.m.

With regards to Scio, as Gertrude Stein would say, "There's no there, there". The historical center was the mill at Zeeb and the Huron River. When it closed, over one hundred years ago, the settlement settled into a period of decline. Most people outside of Washtenaw County can't even pronounce "Scio" (sigh). "Washtenaw Fire and Rescue" sounds like a name for something in Willow Run (the former Eastlawn). @David Read, talking about a "slap in the face" is not how real politicians talk...