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Posted on Sun, Jan 10, 2010 : 1:32 p.m.

Ypsilanti firefighters union fighting back against plan to lay off 6

By Art Aisner

Ypsilanti firefighters are gripping tight.

Faced with a $1.4 million budget gap, City Manager Ed Koryzno will propose cutting six positions from the 18-member fire department during a special session with the City Council Monday. The public meeting starts at 6 p.m. in city council chambers.


In this 2007 file photo, firefighter Fred Williams III takes off his suit after returning from a emergency call.

The layoffs would occur in March to save roughly $430,000 this year, Koryzno said.

The City Council announced plans to trim the budget by $1.4 million last month, with 80 percent of the cuts in public safety and 20 percent from other city departments.

But firefighters said going to 12 - with an average age of the firefighters approaching 50 - will fundamentally change what they’re trained to do and what the public expects them to do when buildings burn. The department once numbered 30 firefighters.

“That will drastically change how we do business,” said Richard Barnabo, who has spent more than a decade with the department. “We’ll become a defensive fire department, and not an aggressive one.”

Federal standards dictate a firefighter must be accompanied by at least one other firefighter into a burning building. Two more and a supervisor also should be outside, ready to coordinate and perform any rescue.

The two-in, two-out rule is among several arguments the firefighters plan to make over the next several weeks in a campaign to rally public support to save jobs, said union president Ken Hobbs.

But Koryzno said the proposal won't compromise public safety, and the federal requirement can still be met - provided firefighters agree to change from three shifts with five firefighters to two shifts of six.

The two sides have been negotiating in mediation for months without any significant progress.

“It’s important to recognize that we have serious budget and financial issues and we’re making every attempt to meet those financial obligations while keeping the public safe,” he said.

Hobbs said the union has made considerable concession offers that were rejected by the city. He also points out residents and proprietors stand to lose even more money because the city’s insurance rating would inevitably rise, while annual compensation from the state for providing services to Eastern Michigan University would decrease.

The city has working agreements with surrounding communities to assist with fire emergencies, but the ranks are also thinning at neighboring departments.

Ann Arbor officials planned to lay off 14 firefighters this month, but a tentative deal was reached with the union that's expected to postpone the layoffs. The Ypsilanti Township firefighters union was expected to vote on possible buyout proposals Friday.

“We’re at a tipping point,” Ypsilanti Fire Chief Jon Ichesco said. “It just takes a certain number of people to the job the right way. We’re going to have to decide are we going after the fire or say let’s take care of the property and premises as best we can.”

Koryzno said the positions are funded through July, but layoffs in March would save more money.

The fire department’s operating budget is $2.7 million, and the police department’s budget is $4.7 million, city documents show.

The police department will eliminate a lieutenant’s position with Amy Walker’s recent appointment to chief, and five additional positions are expected to be axed. Drug forfeiture money will be used to pay for two officers working with the Livingston and Washtenaw Narcotics Enforcement Team.

Two part-time positions in the city’s finance department are expected to be eliminated. And all non-union employees in other city departments will be required to take 13 unpaid furlough days each year under the proposal.

Art Aisner is a freelance reporter for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 8:21 p.m.

This story is pretty amazing. How can YFP properly respond to call with only 4 Firefighters and not risk having anyone get hurt or possibly killed. I have read a lot about the money side of things, but keep in mind we are talking about the lives of firefighters and the safety of the general public, not to mention the thousands of kids that attend EMU. Mr. Koryzno please find the money to help protect the city.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 8:35 p.m.

Mike, I don't disparage Volunteer and Paid on Call Firefighters. They saved my father. The Augusta Twp. Firefighters are great! However, once again I ask, and two have already commented that there should be volunteers, where will they come from? Neither you nor Kent have been able to say that you WILL volunteer. Not slamming you, but take a look at Superior FD who ended their volunteer program due to lack of participation. Also, how do you cover a campus and industrial area with volunteers? Again, I know many volunteers and I respect and appreciate what they do, but there is a big difference in the number of runs from Augusta to Ypsilanti City.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 7:58 p.m.

If I was young enough, I would. I was accepted as a volunteer fireman in my home town at the age of eighteen. Anyone who disparages VFD's has never been close enough to see the sacrifice these men and women make for their communities.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 11:59 a.m.

Kent, You ready to sign up? I'm sure that your employer won't mind when you leave work for a fire or EMS call. By the way, remember that you have to attend mandatory training sessions to be licensed by the state. Ready to get up in the middle of the night, come out on Christmas day, work in the heat of July and cold of January? Got plenty of time for that?

Kent Herbert

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 10:51 a.m.

Its unfortunate that such cuts must be made. But look at the economy of the state and city. Its bad and the City hasn't got a tax base anything like Ann Arbor. Its probably time to consider a mixed full-time and part paid Fire Department like Troy and Farmington Hills have. Ignorant comments like cutting other staff are non-sense. In cities like Ypsilanti, that has been done long ago. The Firefighters offered cuts in wages and benefits? Let them tell you what the cost of their wages, pension, and health care are. I doubt anything meaningful in savings was offered. The City leaders need community's support and useful, outside the box thinking, to help with this situation. Get a grip on reality and pull together with solutions that residents work together to help themselves. Non-resident mercenary Firefighters are not the answer.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 5:29 a.m.

Great job reporting, Andy!


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 1:02 a.m.

I attended tonight's meeting. I cant possibly explain what exactly the service cuts to YPD and YFD will mean; go look at the council packet for tonights meeting to see the flow charts. Or better yet, ask a firefighter or a police officer. I guarantee they can explain it. Here is what I got. The YFD and YPD will be up against it with these cuts. The YPD will loose 5 officers, a lieutenant, and all of its dispatchers are being transferred to the county. So not only do you loose one officer per shift over four shifts and a supervisor, but now the on duty officers must answer all non emergency calls to the station. To her credit, when asked if the department was capable of coping with these cuts, Chief Walker answered, Were the YPD. We can do anything. 32 total police employees to cover a city the size of Ypsilanti. I hope they can. The YFD will be down to 14 members. Let me say it again. The YFD will be down to 14 members. There will be two platoons, with 6 members each. Two of these will be rotated off at any given time. Remember, firefighters dont work in shifts, they work for days at a time, 24 hours a day. That means four total firefighters on duty at any time. Federal standards dictate that there must be 5 firefighters on the scene in order to enter a burning building; a commander, 2 in and 2 out. That means waiting for help from a nearby department. But all of the near by departments are cutting, too. So whos left to help? And this is just fires we are talking about, not rescues, or car crashes or downed wires or any thing else that firefighters do. Oh, also, because cuts are done by seniority, the average age of the YFD becomes 48. And what do you think this kind of staffing will do to your homeowners insurance rates? Councilmen Murdock and Robb question the math of these cuts. Their calculations on overtime needed to make up for things like vacation or sick days, or the suggestion that the YFD could adhere to the 2 in 2 out rule with the proposed staffing were staggering, and I hope they make them available soon. I think they could shed some light on the over all numbers for the proposed cuts. If there is any validity to the numbers they mentioned, overtime pay would total more than that of several firefighters or police officers. If the math is really as far off as they suggest, then Mr. Koryzno will need to explain his figures very thoroughly. Both union heads urged the city not to make any cuts until the end of the fiscal year in June when the next round of collective bargaining begins. Both indicated that they were willing to make cuts, and suggested that concessions were offered and roundly rejected. Buy outs and early retirement were also mentioned. It was also pointed out that, if all of the citys budget needs are met by laying off officers and firefighters on March first, the unions dont have much incentive to make more concessions on July first. The end story? There is a lot more work to be done and discussion to be had. Council, the Mayor, and city staff have an unenviable task ahead. One thing is for certain; we are going to have to come up with some seriously creative solutions to fund city services. Or a miracle. And we already regained one factory and 400 manufacturing jobs, I think we already used our miracle up.


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 11:01 p.m.

Hey Mike, you ready to sign up?


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 9:03 p.m.

Why doesn't the city consider a partial volunteer force? I realize the union will scream bloody murder but the town really cannot afford to not think outside the box. An option would be to have the paid force work from 6am to 6pm on weekdays and have the volunteers take over after that. In my home town we had two oil refineries in a town of 25000 that never had a paid force. The money saved went into equipment. Obviously this would have to be done gradually until the vols had sufficient training and experience to handle the position, but many towns have such departments and do just fine.


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 7:01 p.m.

Hey DaLastWOrd, Is that SALARY, SALARY and OVERTIME, SALARY AND BENEFITS? Before you make a statement like that, how about clearing up the details. BTW, You best check your facts, there are Firefighters there with Degrees, and to enter the department you must be pre-certified in Firefighting and Emergency Medical Technology.Of course, I wouldn't expect you to know that. Please just accept their assistance when you are in need and move along.

DaLast word

Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 5:49 p.m.

Clearly, part of the problem here is that the fire fighters are being paid $72,000 a year. This is not a dregreed job. YES ALL government is corrupt and spends OUR money like drunken sailors. If we as a public don't start holding these folks won't change!


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 4:47 p.m.

PHeeeeeew! At least we will still have our AATA bus service!!


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 9:59 a.m.

Instead of eliminating police and fire positions, why not eliminate ALL "assistant" positions such as the assistant city manager. Is Mr. Koryzno out of the office so much that the assistants' position is necessary? Are ANY of the "assistant" positions necessary? Take a look at Monroe County. In order to balance their budget, the mayor eliminated ALL assistant manager/director positions last year, saving the city approximately $1 million. Under the circumstances, why should the City Council be paid at all? They WANTED the position. Don't they all have "real" jobs? Reimburse them for mileage, to and from meetings, and indefinitely suspend ALL BUT ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY out of town travel. And does every member of the Council need to go? Why not send only one representative. Can't they take notes and report back to the Council? Reinstate their pay only after the City is "in the black" and money in the bank. The Water Street Project makes my blood boil! Talk about fraud, waste and abuse! Several people should have gone to jail for that disaster which amounts to stealing money from the city. I don't recall anyone asking the TAX PAYERS if we wanted that project and doing something with the property seems to be in a permanent holding pattern. The City now has only ONE building inspector (there use to be THREE) who last year approved the house next door to ours as RENTAL PROPERTY in an area of Normal Park that was SUPPOSE to be prohibited from rezoning to rental. The property has become a dump, lived in by 4 college students plus all their friends who show up needing a place to live, and was rented "under the radar" for over a year before a Certificate of Occupancy was applied for. There are a number of homes being rented in this manner, which amounts to some serious lost tax revenue. With the proposed budget cuts, if we're lucky, the house will catch fire and burn to the ground because there won't be enough firemen to put the blaze out. It sure would get rid of the mice problem. I have lived in Ypsilanti for over 25 years and have been proud to say I live in Normal Park, but I have become increasingly disgusted with what has become of this city because of the lack of common sense by our "leadership". Or is this yet another ploy to force the residence of Ypsilanti to agree to and suck up a City Income Tax? Fat Chance!


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 6:51 a.m.

Cutting Public Safety, here we go again cut the schools, cut the police department, cut the fire department. But waste all that money on the "water Street " project. someone should be jailed for even proposing that project. Overpay all those people for their property is a declining area, not good rocket science, if you ask me. The reason "they" propose the public safety cuts is, they want to "tax" us more and "they" know, we will not approve more tax increases for them to continue to squander the monies. If anyone ever thought that some condominiums would be built on the Huron River in downtown Ypsilanti, then they have not paid their property taxes lately there! No one in their right mind would move there and pay those taxes, what are the benefits? What the City of Ypsilanti really needs is a "tax free zone", gee I don't know Fred, imagine that what a proposal. OK, here it comes look at the actual budget what a novel idea, look at all that money going to pay for Defined Benefit Plans, are the municipal workers living in the past? Wake up Firemen! Everyone wants your job, as for the police there is demand there also. No more DBP! The City can not afford it, the tax base has erroded, everyone left town, remember the water street project. All The business were bought out, in fact they were "overpaid". Next bight idea coming from "city Council" coming soon to a comedy club near you. There you go open a comedy club in Ypsilanti, City council should really hire me as a consultant, of course they would not like if plain they love it sugar coated. Oh, by the way when the City Fire department is cut is is very likely that everyone that pays property Insurance will soon get a nice increase, then we will be in really "good hands" with our "neighbor on our side". There is only one good thing to say here, I do not live in the city, they ran my kind out long time ago, could not pay the taxes.


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 12:15 a.m.

The following list of cuts being proposed for Ypsilanti City services comes straight from the blog of Ypsilanti Ward 3 Councilman Brian Robb. Remember that Brian added $20,000 to the citys yearly park maintenance budget this summer by proposing and passing the measure that revoked the Depot Town Community Development Corporation contract to care for Riverside and Frog Island Parks, over the use of the word Ypsitucky. That $20,000 is only to cut the grass, and does not include any other maintenance costs. I think its a funny little irony that Brian is the council member talking the most about these cuts publicly. But I digress. These cuts that will be proposed at the upcoming Ypsilanti strategic budget planning sessions on January 11 and 19 Eliminate (6) firefighter positions for a savings of $441,283 Use PSAP funds to pay for the dispatch contract with the Washtenaw County for a savings of $158,000 Eliminate (1) lieutenants position from the police department for a savings of $94,291 Eliminate (5) police officers for a savings of $293,769 Fund (2) LAWNET positions with drug forfeiture money for a savings of $132,657 Reduce non-union pay by 5% using furlough days for a savings of $73,153 Book $50,000 in savings from the maintenance of public buildings Eliminate the recreation utilities contribution on Parkridge and the Senior Center for a savings of $35,000 Eliminate (2) part-time finance generalists for a savings of $60,000 Make the DDA pay for services for a revenue increase of $35,000 Book $26,847 in savings by implement cuts by March 1, 2010 Notice there is no significant pay cut for council mentioned? Six Firefighters and Five Police Officers and council might be willing to give up 5%, or less than $300 a year per member, as offered in a resolution by Pete Murdock. Six firefighters, according to Captain Altruda(sp) of YFD at a recent council meeting, is likely the difference between saving your home or controlling how it burns, due to laws governing safety of firefighters. This is the breakdown on council pay form a recent Ypsilanti citizen Op Ed on the subject of Council Pay Cuts: [councils] $111,754 annual budget. Of the total budget, $40,700 or 36 percent is spent on City Councils annual salaries. The elected officials make an average of $5,813 a year. This averages $252 per regular meeting, not including special meetings, workshops and other functions. Mayor Paul Schreiber and Mayor Pro Tem Trudy Swanson, D-Ward 1, make more than average salaries, at $8,964 and $5,976 respectively. Each Councilmember makes $5,151 a year. Murdocks proposed cuts were across the board, but included 5 percent reduction in City Councils salary. This would result in an average yearly loss of $290 per councilmember. You can read the full story at As I said earlier, there has been talk in council of a modest pay cut, and there is some support for it. The argument against it goes like this: how will we get quality candidates if we don't offer pay or "I'm expected to make huge donations to charity/church because I'm elected. My answer: We will really not have a problem finding quality candidates; there is a politician born every minute. As for the churches and charities; dig into you pockets a little deeper or explain to them that you too are suffering in these economic times And thats what it all about. These are hard times and we are all suffering, and we all need to make sacrifices. The city needs a gesture from city council. Id like to believe that no one is serving as an elected official in Ypsilanti for the pay. I am not proposing to eliminate council pay. I am advocating a 25% cut in council salaries. (5% less than I originally proposed) Thats an average cut of $1453 per member or $10,175 over all. Combined with a 10% cut to the remaining council budget this would be a total savings of $17,280; almost enough to cut the grass in Riverside and Frog Island parks. This wont save a firefighter or a police officer. Its a drop in the bucket. But it is a significant amount of money that can do some good in the budget. And it is a gesture of good faith the city deserves. Ypsilanti is facing a challenge unlike anything in recent memory. I encourage every citizen to attend the strategic budget sessions January 11 and 19 at the Ypsilanti City Hall and speak up. Let council know that you are angry at the way services are being slashed. Let them know that we all are paying when they make foolish decisions. If you have been helped by the YFD or YPD, come in an testify to the importance of our public safety departments. Even if it is now to late to stop these cuts, let them know that we are watching and expect better.


Sun, Jan 10, 2010 : 8:31 p.m.

What a farce!!! Cutbacks in public safety in an area known for very active police and fire responses...? I wonder what the administration is telling the EMU people. Maybe the families of those students who might need public safety should be notified. Chief Ichesco should be ashamed for selling out his people!! Try calling mutual aid from neighbors who all seem to be cutting back on their own resources... that's a great sounding plan. Will all of the local fire departments even have enough people to fight one sizeable apartment or dorm fire together??? This just sounds like a bad deal no matter how it plays out.


Sun, Jan 10, 2010 : 8:29 p.m.

"Were going to have to decide are we going after the fire or say lets take care of the property and premises as best we can. So you are going to have a fake fire department that does not really fight the fire? Will they go there just to watch?


Sun, Jan 10, 2010 : 8:16 p.m.

Johnnya2, I think you are mixing up Ypsilanti Township and the City of Ypsilanti. The 2 platoon system is what Ypsi City Fire is proposed to be going to. I'd like to know who is going to finally pay for the Water Street fiasco. Didn't Mr. Koryzno advocate the project? Why is he still employed?


Sun, Jan 10, 2010 : 7:43 p.m.

Not sure how it works in Ypsi Twp, but I have seen firefighters work 24 hours on, 48 hours off. Just listening to the plan proposed will not allow fro a firefighter to EVER take vacation. If they are sick, the entire system fails. Public safety (police, fire) need to have back up systems in place. How does the system handle two fires at the same time? What happens when there are car accidents in the township that require attention. As far as i know there is still ice and snow in Ypsi Twp and with cut backs in snow removal nobody will respond to accidents. How much does the city manager make? Why not cut 80% in administration and 20 per cent in public safety? In looking at their budget I see accounting department having $170k in salaries, the assessing department has over $250,000 allocated to salaries. THey have over $450 k devoted to litigation with an attorney on retainer for nearly $100k.Then there are the multiple elected official salaries. I suggest each of them take a pay cut as well. If they cut their salaries by 1/3 I am sure there could be enough to cover 2 firefighters. The best thing that could happen is to go to a county wide public safety department. It gives a lot more flexibility to where people need to be and when.

dading dont delete me bro

Sun, Jan 10, 2010 : 7:12 p.m.

that's a 1/3 of the yfd force! totally unacceptable! i saw 6 going on a run today, guess that'll be one less run they'll be going on?!? basically, the city will be eliminating one of the three platoons the fd has. so whoever's left will be working their normal 12 hour shift every day forever?

Martin Church

Sun, Jan 10, 2010 : 5:08 p.m.

I wish some one would ask when the administraition is going to take a pay cut. cutting fire fighters and not cutting the Administors pay is bad policy. If we are that bad then the city Manager and his staff need to also take an equal pay cut. Why are we putting our citiznes safety at risk. What happened to the tax money that was suppose to be dedicated to the public safety.


Sun, Jan 10, 2010 : 4:31 p.m.

Sorry to say this sounds just like Ann Arbor - POOR fiscal management from the city council and it's members. Are Ed Koryzno from Ypsilanti and Roger Fraser from Ann Arbor going to be onteh scene of every fire and put on gear to assist their respective firefighters who they claim to love so much???? What about the so called agreement with AA for mutual aid? now that they may or may not lay off members from its own department. Sorry you can not buy things, build things, etc when you have not money - but the leaders of these cities continually do so on a regular basis. Wake up citizens, the leaders will be putting your lives at risk!