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Posted on Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 6:02 a.m.

Ann Arbor firefighters union claims station closures possible after failed deal

By Ryan J. Stanton


From left: driver Kathy Summersgill, Lt. Chris Buscemi, and Lt. Bob Ruppel stand next to Engine 4 at Station 4. Union officials claims the city is considering closing Stations 3 and 4, in addition to laying off 14 firefighters. The three firefighters pictured have seniority in the department and will be spared in the job cuts.

Angela J. Cesere |

Ann Arbor officials and firefighters union representatives say they're at an impasse in negotiations - less than a week after it appeared the two sides had reached a tentative agreement to save the city a significant sum of money.

According to sources close to the discussions, the union offered to make major concessions, including a 6 percent reduction in wages and benefits. But with no guarantee of avoiding layoffs and other differences unresolved, talks have stalled.

Matt Schroeder, president of the firefighters union, said he's not at liberty to say what has been discussed, but it's unfortunate the city is moving forward with eliminating 14 firefighter positions from the payroll effective Jan. 4.

"We made a good faith gesture to the city and offered them a substantial cost savings to get them through the July period and thought, in the meantime, we could work hard to try to overcome some of our differences," Schroeder said. "The city was unwilling to budge on those issues and keep us on a level playing field, so it appears as though they're going to proceed with layoffs and station closures. My understanding is that Stations 3 and 4 will be closing."

City Administrator Roger Fraser declined to speculate on which, if any, stations could close under plans under way to reorganize the fire department with fewer firefighters. He also declined to comment on specifics of the negotiations.

"We don't talk away from the table," Fraser said. "We've had discussions and there's been some promising portions of that discussion, but at the moment, apparently they're not happy with where we are."

Ann Arbor currently has five fire stations after closing Station 2 about seven years ago. Station 3 is located at 2130 Jackson Ave. and Station 4 is at 2415 Huron Parkway.

The other three stations are downtown, near the University of Michigan's North Campus, and near Briarwood Mall.


The hats of three firefighters who face layoffs sit on a truck at Station 4 in Ann Arbor. Union officials claims the city is considering closing Stations 3 and 4, in addition to laying off 14 firefighters.

Angela J. Cesere |

Police Chief Barnett Jones, the city's safety services administrator, declined to speculate on the possibility of stations closing other than to say the fire department's acting chief, Greg Hollingsworth, is working on different scenarios.

"The acting chief has been working on a couple of proposals to restructure if we do have the layoffs," Jones said. "One of those proposals does indicate we would have to close a station and another one is to do it without closing a station."

Jones criticized the union for trying to "start a firestorm of speculation."

"I believe that they're at the table and the negotiations should be taking place at the table," he said. "It is not the time to play games in the press - it's time to sit down and knuckle down and see what we can do to avoid layoffs."

Schroeder sent an e-mail to City Council members on Thursday, expressing disappointment that the city is going through with cuts and urging them to ask tough questions of the city's administration. He said there has been no impact study done and the union has been kept in the dark about plans to reorganize.

Union representatives have reached out to the University of Michigan's Board of Regents to tell of their plight, but say they have not heard back. They fear the cuts the city is proposing could impact the ability to respond to calls on U-M's campus.

That has resurrected a longstanding debate over whether the university - which occupies a significant chunk of land in Ann Arbor but pays no city taxes - should contribute to the cost of providing city services such as fire protection.

"We've been making a case out of that ever since I've been here and before that," said Fraser, who was hired as Ann Arbor's city administrator in April 2002.

Fraser said the state's Fire Protection Fund is supposed to allocate money to help municipalities like Ann Arbor pay for fire services using a formula based on the percentage of tax-exempt property in the city. Ann Arbor, like many communities that are home to public institutions, has not received the amount the formula calls for.

According to Fraser's calculation, the city should be receiving between $1.8 million and $2 million a year. But he says it hardly has reached half that amount and has been as low as $300,000.

According to Fraser, the university's position has been that its mission is education and the city doesn't ask public schools to pay for city services, so it shouldn't ask the university, either.

Jim Kosteva, U-M's director of community relations, said the university has heard from the firefighters union and is sympathetic. But he said a special request for funding would have to come directly from the city's administration and there have been no such discussions in the last year.

In the past, Kosteva said, the university has responded to special requests from the city. He cited a gift of $400,000 the university made several years ago to purchase a new fire truck. He also noted that the university - for decades now - has provided the city fire station near U-M's North Campus rent-free and utility-free.

"Sufficient and adequate fire protection is just as much an interest for us at it is for every citizen and business operator in the community," Kosteva said. "If there was a point in time reached within their budgetary constraints that there was some measure of jeopardy regarding the ability to provide some of those basic municipal services ... we would rely upon the city's administration to communicate that not only to the university but to the citizens at large."

City officials say they expect to realize some operating efficiencies and potential cost savings in the months ahead now that fire dispatch operations have been moved to Huron Valley Ambulance. The intent is to better screen calls through HVA and reduce unnecessary runs by city's fire trucks.

Ann Arbor's fire department handled 5,981 dispatched calls last year, 250 of which were fire-related. The bulk of the rest were emergency medical calls - not all of which needed to be responded to by the city's fire department, city officials said.

Craig Ferris, a lieutenant who has been with the department for 16 years, recently authored a report that discusses the role of the fire department in Ann Arbor. Ferris said he feels city leaders have tried to trivialize what the department does.

"It's a repeat of 2002. It's the playbook they followed back then," he said. "It's go on the offensive, attack the fire department, discount what we do, tell everybody everything is going to be OK and there'll be a minimal, unnoticeable reduction in service. But in reality - like you heard Mr. Fraser say - he's OK if we're just a 'defensive' fire department. And people to need realize what that term means.

"That means we're not going to come inside your house and put out your fire," Ferris said. "We're going to stand around the outside and make sure your fire doesn't extend to your neighbor's house. And I don't think people in the city of Ann Arbor are willing to put up with that."

Schroeder said he wants city officials and the firefighters union to resolve their differences and bargain in good faith.

"The city appears not to be willing to do that," he said. "They want us to give a lot and they're unwilling to come through with no-layoff guarantees for us, which is obviously what we're after because we believe that the way we're currently staffed it's important for us to maintain that minimal amount."

The fire department currently operates on a budget of about $14 million a year, the bulk of which goes to wages and benefits. Right now the department has 94 full-time employees (soon to be 80), which includes two management assistants and the chief. In 2001-02, the department had 113.5 full-time equivalent employees.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Thu, Dec 24, 2009 : 1:52 p.m.

I have a question to belzboy regarding his opinion that the FD should only run on fires. Who, then, SHOULD run on the other calls that he deems it not necessary for the FD to run on? Say the city cuts the FD's budget to $1M, per your suggestion, and they begin only running on fires. Won't some other entity then need to run on all the other 911 calls that the FD is currently responding to? Be that the police or whomever? And that will require resources, so the money currently going to the FD, will have to be redirected to to them? Or should those 911 calls go unanswered? Tell those people too bad? I personally think it's more logical to pay the FD to do it as opposed to some private ambulance company, whose response time is LONGER... and please remember not to tell me that MY opinion is wrong. After all, if you are entitled to yours, I'm entitled to mine! Happy holidays!


Thu, Dec 24, 2009 : 11:12 a.m. in case anyone is interested in a very well written summaey of the actual calls, broken down by category, that the FD ran on in 2009. Sleep tight, I know I won't feel quite as safe once the dept reductions take place on the 4th...


Wed, Dec 23, 2009 : 2:37 p.m.

@aataxpayer... I don't disagree with you. However, would you be willing to accept the fact that the Union has, in fact, offered cuts to wages and benefits? I know you're focusing on the 6%, but there were many other areas that cuts have been made which impact the over all salaries other than just the per year number. We've NEVER been against taking cuts when asked by the mayor. The only thing we ever asked was, "What do we need to do to keep fire stations open?" Fraser is dead set on closing them, regardless of what numbers we brought him. Also know this, there have been 2 instances already where he asked for X amount, and when it was delivered, he said it wasn't good enough and needed more. He's setting us up for failure. All we've ever tried to do is stop him from shutting stations down. I wish the residents would stop giving 100% of their trust to Fraser and see what he's all about. There's much more to his plan than the public knows about, and we're trying to make that known.


Wed, Dec 23, 2009 : 2:23 p.m.

@belboz, did you ever read the breakdown of what the fire department does?


Wed, Dec 23, 2009 : 1:12 p.m.

I chose that community for 2 reaons. 1. To respond to the argument that EVERY fire department has the same budget / fire related response ratio. 2. That a fire department with a similar number of calls that are FIRE RELATED (200 for them vs. 250 for us) can respond to them and manage them on a budget that is over 90% less than ours. I don't expect Yugo service. I expect high quality service on the 250 Fire Related calls. Perhaps the Fire Department is extended into responsibilities that really just are not theres. Can someone get back to basics and explain what the Fire Department is for? What are the core responsibilites? As a taxpayer, I expect them to put out fires when they occur. I don't expect them to make the trip on medical emergencies. You may disagree, but you can't tell me my expectations are wrong. They are mine. Perhaps the charter needs to be re-read / re-written, and then a staff built up to support that. Just because we spend $14 million does not mean we need it. And who was the person making the statement about fires at fraternities, asking people not to complain when nobody responds? If that is the type of mentality on our current FD staff, then perhaps a volunteer FD is best. We'd have people who want to and are willing to show up. Again - 250 Fire Related calls per year in Ann Arbor. Not even one a day. Does that justify a 94 person staff? Angry rhetoric aside, I don't think so.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 8:34 p.m.

BTW, the AAPD were offered a substantial buy-out package that is now costing the city in overtime because so many jumped ship. No one in PD LOST their jobs, they were given a nice package to retire early. All they gave FD was a pink slip. And the 'cuts' they took cost quite a bit of money. So when wondering why the city wants to cut FD 6 months earlier than what they had budgeted for... where do you think that money went? To the PD who are sitting home now with a nice retirement.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 8:30 p.m.

Well, you're somewhat informed... let me finish it for you. The FD wanted to charge IN PLACE of HVA, not in addition to. The city has the money in one of their famous 'buckets' that could purchase 5 BLS transport units. Since AAFD beats HVA to 90% of the calls, and almost all of those calls are basic transport calls, why should we continue to allow HVA to steal from the residents and bill them for ALS service when they never needed it? Also the mayor called for ALL unions to take the 3%. The FD was the first to step forward to that call and offer double that, but we still take heat from people like you. And no one is 'whinning' as you say. We are a life saving entity. When the city ties our hands to do our jobs, what do you think the end result of what we're trying to do becomes? I'm not trying to argue with you, but it gets very frustrating when folks comment on here because they don't know the full story. Do you go to council meetings? If you do, you'd know just how much money the city spends EACH meeting. The result of the 'retreat' was a list produced by Fraser on all the ideas. Each and every one of them he stated "needs to be investigated before taking action". All except for the FD. Do you know that revenue sharing has NOT been cut and the state is now looking at not cutting it. All other plans to save money the city won't move on unless they have a committee, but cutting 14 jobs w/o even having a plan on how to structure the FD afterwards, to me, is just idiotic. Let's study why managing golf courses is a bad idea, but we'll break our FD apart. It's like they're saying, let's cut the head off just to see what will happen. And the 15% you mention didn't obviously all come from the 6% we offered in wages. We cut other budget items to get to that point.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 7:27 p.m.

@ Really The city needs almost a 15% cut this year they say. Your Union offered 6% plus a plan to charge taxpayers for having FD show up at medicals. The AAPD has taken almost a 20% cut in 2009. I understand that layoffs endanger safety. If you don't want to take the cuts across the board then take the layoffs. What is your alternative? Just cut someone else's job? A cop? A member of the street crew? Don't all of these services funded under the general fund affect safety? Ann Arbor has made bad choices in the past. Now the chicken has come home to roost. In Superior Twp there is a Police millage and a Fire millage. This year because of tough times the commission cut the millage slightly to give back to the taxpayers. They could do this because they paid ahead for possible bad times. It is sad that A2 did not. But where would you get the money? Comments about letting people and property burn up are not winning support. Try solutions. How about doing transports instead of HVA? Then you can charge the insurance, not the tax payers. Another Michigan FD has proposed that to save jobs. They may still to take a pay cut. How about a plan rather than veiled threats and appeals to our conscience? I feel bad for you but you need an alternative that gets to 15% without raising costs to the taxpayer. BTW I joined a Union at 16 and was a union worker all my life except for a couple of years serving Uncle Sam. I survived the 70's and times were BAD then too. The solution is not turning control of your future over to the inevitable management reaction.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 6:14 p.m.

Well AATAXPAYER the next time you're on your hands and knees in a burning building or frat house looking for survivors and fall through a floor into the basement or have a wall fall on you, let me know what you think then. Then again, I'm sure it's nice and cozy from where you're typing your criticism. Happy and safe holidays. There are those of us that will be working Christmas Eve and Christmas Day so that you and yours will enjoy a safe holiday together. I'm sure you probably think Amy (firefighter) made too much for going out on the freeway when she lost her life and was struck by a car while helping someone that was involved in another accident. But like you said, we get generous benefits, so it shouldn't really matter.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 3:12 p.m.

@Awakened.... that name is fitting. Did you just read the article with none of the posts, or the union's comments? The union DID make all the cuts and then some. I think all of the residents fail to see that. The ONLY thing they asked for was not to close anymore stations for *6 months*. The reason for that was to continue to cut costs and sustain long term benefits. Stop buying into Fraser's mental picture of the Evil Union. The FD gave everything they asked AND THEN MORE. They walked away from the table. So what does that tell you about this city? Clearly it's not a money issue. The city wants to close fire stations. Face the facts. If it was such a money thing, why is the city crying they need 1.4 millon to keep fire stations open, but last night approved 1.4 millon to buy new garbage cans. Know all the facts. You can hate the FD all you want for things that happened +10 years ago. It's 2009. Things have changed. City asked for cuts, union gave more than they asked. End result... city is still closing fire stations. You tell me who has a screwed up agenda.


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 12:50 p.m.

People are being asked by AAFD to make a choice that the people just don't have the ability to make. Most people have had to make do with less since the crash. Pay cuts, lost business revenues, falling and failing investments. People are now selling homes for 60 and 70% of what they paid a few years ago. If they can sell them at all. The tax base is smaller. It is called recession. The citizens of A2 elected representatives who pushed for Parks and Greenbelt millages. Yes,and funding for art. If the citizens want to change those priorities they can. But not for months at least. Meanwhile, the City faces a crisis paying for services. The Police Department was cut by almost 20% this year after years of attrition failed to secure the needed cuts. The buyout they were offered was prior to losing the State matching funds. They wouldn't get that offer now either. All of the general funded City Service units have seen that level of reduction or greater. Complaining about the choices made in the past does no good. Complaining that money has been used for other purposes is not going to bring that money back. The choice here belongs to the Fire Union. $1.4 million needs to be cut. Make the cuts with concessions to save the jobs of your members or layoffs must occur. Yes, layoffs will increase risk for people and property in the city. It will mean some of your co-workers will lose homes and their families will suffer. If you make concessions then all of you will have less and some of your co-workers may have financial crises anyway. It is an ugly choice. But this is the same choice other Unions and workers in the City had to face as well. It is the same choice that most of the citizens that you serve have had to face. They can't choose to undo the(often poor)past decisions or to have the economic crisis go away or have their property valued higher. AAFD personnel must to choose between these two ugly alternatives. What will it be?


Tue, Dec 22, 2009 : 1:07 a.m.;;;;;;;;;; Here you go... since no residents spoke up at the city council meeting, maybe you should think about sending them an email. Ask which council members will offer up the fire stations in their wards. (Cut and past the link into your browser if it doesn't come across as a short cut).


Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 11:19 p.m.

Ok... settle down and just think a little bit. Some of the commenters are clearly here to spark a futile argument... please ignore them. The contract that the FD operates under is a 2 party agreement. Fraser does not like the fire department because he cannot control them. Fraser should have all of his earnings from the city audited simply to clear up some of the side discussion like fleet fuel for his commute into the city where he couldn't find a suitable home. The FD personnel do whatever is asked of them by the citizens and that is what a nice community does. I hope they don't close station 4 "the box" because that is who protects my mom and many friends. Please stop the silly arguments and try to find some type of solution that can keep these 14 positions, at least until a restructuring can be implemented. God Bless everyone that goes to work, leaving family behind, knowing that each return home is a gift.


Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 10:18 p.m.

@aataxpayer... I'm curious. How much do you think a firefighter should be paid? Do you have one number in your head if you never use them? What's that number then become when they save one of your loved ones?

The Grinch

Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 8:59 p.m.

Let's face it, folks. Belboz and his ilk want something for nothing. They expect Chevrolet police and fire protection, schoools, and roads at Yugo prices. I've got news for you: Buy a Yugo, get a Yugo. So it's time to decide which is more important: having the acoutraments of a civil society that honors its social contract to the community, and especially that to the least fortunate in that community, or having a few more dollars in our pockets to satisfy our Scrooge-like worst instincts. Unfortunately, I fear I know the answer to that question.

Lynn Lumbard

Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 6:40 p.m.

Belboz, I can't quite figure out why you chose to compare Ann Arbor to Trumansburg, a village with a population under 1,600??


Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 5:12 p.m.

@belboz, I suppose when speaking to you I should've made the provision, "compare apples to apples". Comparing departments with smaller populations and extremely rural departments does not provide any valuable data except to prove what I've been saying about getting facts straight. I could also provide numbers for LA County FD and show that clearly we should be spending far more in the FD budget since, after all, LA County does. But that would be quite ignorant on my part to compare AAFD to a city that is so far from our population density and sq. miles. Wouldn't it?


Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 4:10 p.m.

My comment and link was a response to your explanation that "every" other fire department in "these" numbers. Every other Fire Department does not have these numbers. The "Maybury" fire department that I linked to had slightly over 200 "Fire Related" calls for the year. The is about 25% fewer than Ann Arbors 250 "Fire Related" calls for the year. Ann Arbor has 25% more fire related calls, but we spend 14 times the dollar amount on the budget. So, who is spreading the "rumors" that Ann Arbor has number just like everyone else? We are not. A fire in "Maybury" is just as important as one in Ann Arbor, so the snobbery really isn't appropriate...


Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 3:39 p.m.

@belboz... I'm sure my last comment will get deleted for the things I had orginally said to you. I went to your website. I'm sure that if you were to compare the AAPD with say Maybury, you could argue that we spend too much on our PD as well. My statement still stands... you don't get it. And you're proving it. The department you listed is an all volunteer department whose total yearly call volume is that of ONE MONTH in Ann Arbor. Keep trying...


Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 3:10 p.m.

There's something fishy going on here. Public safety is an essential public service. I wonder how a city can cut 14 firefighters and provide adequate service. If they can it makes one wonder why the FD expanded to that level in the first place. That sounds like poor administration. City services should be ranked by how important they are in descending order to least essential and the cuts should start at the bottom even if it means completely cutting some non essential services. Cuts to public service are intended to make voters pass higher taxes. A2 spends too much on non essentials. Blaming the U of M is ridiculous. The UM provides much of its own services and has contributed to the city. It would be nice if they offered some $ in times like this but its not fair to blame the UM. This is a poor story. I think the reporter should have inquired further about why the city isn't getting proper funding for the AAFD from the state for service to UM. Why not? Does the state have an option, or are the AA democrats just letting Gov Granholm off the hook? Also, I wonder about this secrecy about the negotiations? The union president says he is not at liberty to speak and the city administrator won't comment. I think that for an issue like this the public should be well informed on what is going on. Close two more stations? The first few minutes of a fire are the more critical. If the AAFD was so bloated that cuts like this can occur, someone should have to answer for that. For the record, I am not a fire fighter and don't even live in A2 anymore (can't afford it). I do support AAFD and AAPD. You have two outstanding agencies who have rarely been treated well by the city.


Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 3:08 p.m.

I am very saddened and amazed at just how many people in the Ann Arbor community have no idea what these cuts will mean for their safety. Go online, find the station closest to your home or business, figure out the response time. Now imagine that they close that station. What is the response time from the next closest station?? Just an example, If they close Station 3, the average response time to my home now goes from 2 mins with station 3 to 6 minutes with Station 1. Go online, watch videos of how quickly a fire can spread and tell me that that 4 minutes doesn't make a difference. Look at the standards of 2 firefighters in and 2 firefighters outside the fire and tell me that if we only have 3 on one truck and they have to wait for another truck to send 2 in so that they have 2 out, how much life and or property will be lost?? Tell me this...will I pay less taxes than the person who still has a fire station within that 2 minute response time?? Can you really put a price on the safety of your family?? How about the safety of a person who risks their life to save yours or the life of your loved one??


Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 2:08 p.m.

I don't get it....? Well, here is a link to a fire department that responds to a little over 200 fire related calls per year, manages a larger call area, on less than $1 million per year. trumansburgfire com Do you get it? Just because we are in a city does not mean we have have money to waste. Our department has absorbed too many functions. Our money is being spent innefficiently. Do not present an argument by talking down to people. Examine how other communities manage their fire response system for best practices. Get back to core responsibilities. Quit justifying payroll for non-fire related issues. It is a Fire Department, not a community service department. Those are not rumors - they are facts. I understand you may not like the measuring stick, but when one community can spend less than $1 million for a little of 200 fire related calls, with a larger call radius - our $14 million on 250 looks inefficient.


Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 1:06 p.m.

@belboz... you just don't get it... and never will. Again, you don't know your facts. Yes, there are 94 people on the PAYROLL. Not all of them are firefighters who ride the trucks. Like any organization, you have administrators that need to take care of the clerical work. Also, firefighters work 24 hour shifts. There are 3 shifts. So Mr. I-know-all-the-facts, there are NOT 94 people sitting around all day. Divide that by 3 AFTER taking out all the administration staff and chiefs. And since you feel the AAFD has 'grown to a level that can not be justified', go to ANY other fire department in the country. Guess what... they too run on these calls. You know what the main reason for that is? Because there are so many other city 'groups' out there that claim "it's not my job". When someone calls 911 and has no where else to turn, the FD goes because there's no one that we turn away from when they ask us for help. So, I'll say it again, get your facts straight. You're posting as if you're in tuned with what's going on in the department and all you're doing is furthering what Fraser likes to do... spread rumors.


Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 12:51 p.m.

Alright, who killed my post. All of the numbers I used were right from the article. I guess the truth hurts. @BornAndRaised... There is a difference between not LIKING the facts, and not USING the facts. I USED the facts, you just don't LIKE the facts. It is a fact the department operates on a $14 million budget - a number directly from the above article. It is a fact the department responds to 250 "fire related" calls per year. Also from the article. It is a fact the department has 94 people on the payroll. Again, from the article. So, that is an average of 0.8 "fire related" calls per day. That means, it takes a department of 94 people to manage an average of 1 fire per day. Or, $56,000 per fire. However you want to do the math - based on the facts - it is not an efficient use of money. I'll agree with you that the fire department does a lot more than just respond to fires. That is the problem. The department has grown to a size that cannot be justified, so they create other jobs to justify the size. The core responsibility - responding to fires - has less than 1 occurrence per day. So, when you have 94 people sitting around, they come up with other things that are also a "must do" priority. I don't agree with the size of the department, nor the necessity for such a large budget. Cut down on the periphery assignments, build the fire department for the core function - responding to the 0.8 "fire related" calls per day. The rest of the jobs don't need such highly trained, highly paid people.


Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 12:51 p.m.

Alan, you don't really need an answer to that from council do you?!?! I mean, this city is built on the 'nice to haves' and well versed in cutting all the 'need to haves'. People move to a city because of all the 'behind the scene' services it provides. Great fire, police, ems, sanitation, and water. Of course, every city needs a great mecca built by the city supervisor with art work created from someone that not only isn't a resident of the city, but not even one of the country. Alan... keep up buddy. Our great leaders have a great vision for this city. They just have to move their hands from their eyes first so they can see what reality is all about.


Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 12:34 p.m.

Alan, you don't really need an answer to that from council do you?!?! I mean, this city is built on the 'nice to haves' and well versed in cutting all the 'need to haves'. People move to a city because of all the 'behind the scene' services it provides. Great fire, police, ems, sanitation, and water. Of course, every city needs a great mecca built by the city supervisor with art work created from someone that not only isn't a resident of the city, but not even one of the country. Alan... keep up buddy. Our great leaders have a great vision for this city. They just have to move their hands from their eyes first so they can see what reality is all about.

Ryan J. Stanton

Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 11:23 a.m.

For those who weren't aware, it might be worth pointing out that the last contract between the city and the union states, "The City agrees that there will be no layoffs in the Fire Department during the period of July 1, 2004 through June 30, 2009." A link to that contract is included in the "More Info" box above.


Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 10:47 a.m.

While the 'official' times haven't been calculated, let's use a little common sense here. The city has already close one station (Station #2) and taken two trucks out of service (Engine 1 and Ladder 2). Now they are going to close 2 more stations and 2 more trucks off the road. 3 total stations and 4 trucks out of service in this city. Now, you tell me, how do you possible think that response times WON'T increase? They go on ONE fire, and there will be no trucks left for medical emergencies or accidents. See that white stuff on the ground folks... accidents are coming! And for those of you that like to call fire trucks 'ambulance chasers'. You should really educate yourself as to the relationship between HVA and the FD. The FD does, in fact, beat HVA to almost all calls. All firefighters are trained EMTs. When you see a medical, watch who is doing all the physical work and watch who is providing the 'taxi' service to the hospital. Know your facts before speaking as if you do.


Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 10:27 a.m.

There is no doubt, laying off 14 firefighters WILL increase response time. It's not only response time for fires that will suffer but for medical assistance as well. AAFD routinely beats HVA to the scene of medical calls. With regard to fire calls, mutual aid is not always available. You cannot rely on it in all instances as Fraser and Co. would like you to believe. There have already been cases this year where mutual aid was tied up with their own fires, leaving AAFD woefully understaffed. Fraser and the Mayor do not care about providing a safe city to live in, they only care about having a "cool" city and maintaining their fifedom. Their disdain for AAFD is well-documented. And please, UM, what good is a donation of a fire truck if there's no one to staff it? Your Mayor and CIty Administrator have their priorities horribly screwed up. If you care at all about AAFD and your vital city services, call your City Council representative and let them know how you feel.


Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 6:46 a.m.

@Flag I stand corrected. Thank you.


Mon, Dec 21, 2009 : 3:17 a.m.

Yep it is official. The elected officials have no care in the world when it comes to PUBLIC SAFETY. They are playing it out right before your eyes Ann Arbor and guess what...there is nothing you can do about it!! This is how this is going to hurt. Laying off 14 firefighters will limit how many FF's are on an engine. Mandates are I believe 3 for an engine company and at least 4 for a ladder company. Now on top of laying off 14 firefighters they are going to close 2 more stations. This leave 3 fire stations to cover the entire city of Ann Arbor. These three stations will not see any quarter time hardly. Ann Arbor FD is a busy department. What is generally a 7 minute response time for medical or fire is now going to be greatly increased to 10-12 minute response times!!!! This is absolutely horrible. Yes there is mutual aid and they will be using it a lot, but what happens when everyone gets busy? What happens when all three stations are on a structure fire and m/a comes in and in one of the area's where stations were shut down you get a cardiac arrest and another structure your looking at 10+ minutes for a response from M/A. Folks this is going to be absolutely crazy and I really feel for the FF's in AA. It's not your fault and I hope the people of AA don't hold it against you. Their elected officials are making a HUGE HUGE mistake and they need to know it. Step AA and let your voices be heard. Stand with your Police and Fire Departments. Tell them to take back the 2 million dollars they just gave to parks and recs....right now PUBLIC SAFETY IS IN JEOPARDY!!!!!


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 10:56 p.m.

Awakened I think you misunderstand. The city lost the money not the FD specifically. That was state revenue sharing that doesn't have to be spent on the FD and doesn't have to made up by the FD's budget. If we are going to cut why the FD?

The Grinch

Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 10:31 p.m.

BornNRaised: You have hit the nail on the head. Some of the very same people who want to cut fire pay, benefits, and numbers have complained in comments elsewhere on about poor road conditions, etc.... It seems not to have dawned on these rocket scientists that budget cuts = service cuts, and that if they want the same level of service to which they are accustomed, something needs to be done to the revenue side of the equation. But don't ya know that unions are the root of all evil? Yeah, you know, unions, the folks who gave you the weekend, the folks who built the nation's middle class. Yeah, unions are the root of all evil.

The Grinch

Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 10:21 p.m.

Let me see if I have this right: because the people of Ann Arbor (like stunhsif) don't want to pay the increased taxes needed to keep the fire department's funding at current level, the firefighters are supposed to gladly take a pay cut. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense--in an "Alice Through the Looking Glass" sort of way.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 8:32 p.m.

Let's keep in mind the mayor asked for 3% from all unions to save basic services. When the city walked away from the FD taking a 6% reduction, they sent a clear message to the other unions that they really aren't focused on keeping the core services of this city. When you consider the fact that the FD consists of only slightly more than 10% of the total work force in the city and a relatively small union alltogether, it would seem that Fraser truly shot himself (or maybe the Mayor) in the foot by basically walking away from the table when all they wanted was a 6 month extension. So not only did they take a 6% reduction (or at least were ready to), they also reduced costs by $800k (which equals 8 firefighters according to 'fraser math). Asking for a 6 month hold on layoffs to show the city that they can cut further w/o taking trucks out of service seems like a good deal to me. The FD has been saying all along that their only focus was to keep our fire trucks in service. There are so many people that they are only fighting to keep their pay and all they care about. Wonder what all those "experts" have to say now that they offered up double what the mayor asked along with just under 1 millon dollars. When you have a heart attack, or your home is on fire, or one of the other THOUSANDS of other things the FD rolls on happens to you.... remember your negative attitudes when a truck takes 20 minutes to show up. But I'm sure you'll complain about that too, right?


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 7:30 p.m.

@Flag...Fire lost a million in State Fire funds. That has to be made up somewhere. I would like to see the administrators and others take a hit first. This is the same issue as with the school cuts. There is little left to cut but personnel costs. That means massive concessions or layoffs. Livonia School just sent out 80 pink slips to teachers mid-year. I'm sure they don't want to do that either. We are in recession. The pie is smaller. Everyone has to cut back and give up something. Most people in private business have already taken cuts and will take more unfortuantely. Government entities must learn to do with less. AAFD will have to make major consessions. 14 Firefighers out of 94 = almost 15%. They need to get to 15% reduction in personnel cost or suffer layoffs. All one or all the other or split the difference somewhere. 6% doesn't get you the 15%. Even in government math.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 6:33 p.m.

@awakened: The mayor asked for 3% from all employees and the FD offered up 6%. Why should the 90 members of the FD be held responsible for the entire weight of the budget downfall? I think 6% was a good gesture and to ask for a 6 month repreive from layoffs is resonable. Why would they ever agree to take a paycut just to get laidoff anyways.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 6:30 p.m.

BornNRaised, It would be so refreshing to hear a politician say "We did some thing wrong and screwed up. But we can't change the past and now we need your help. But first WE are making these sacrifices (list them) ourselves." 5 minutes doing that instead of a week in a room spinning a story for the media would have gotten better results, I'm guessing. Seeing that budget a few days ago that was posted here I am still scratching my head wondering exactly where those bonuses paid to upper management came from...hmmm...didn't see a line item for them at all. Maybe they can pull money for the fire department out of the same hat they pulled the administrative bonuses.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 6:19 p.m.

"Mr. Lousbury, How would you like to pay for Fire Departments? Should we go back to subscription services, where you can opt out? In those days, fire departments would arrive, and without the fire mark on the house, they would watch it burn, but make sure the houses next door who paid the fee didn't. Believe me, if you let me choose what I pay for with my public dollars, I'd be opting out of a lot of things..." I'll assume that is directed at me as I seem to be the only one with a posted name remotely close to "Lousbury". I have no problem with paying the fire department through tax dollars. My single post in here prior to this did not suggest anything otherwise. It is just that when the private sector suffers either the public sector suffers equally on average or the private sector must compound its suffering in an effort to maintain a public sector status quo. Has the public sector sacrifice on average equaled the sacrifice of its income source?


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 6:17 p.m.

I thought the Union was in negotiation because of the tax shortfall BEFORE the state cut another million in matching funds. The 14 layoffs are a result of the state cuts that came after the start of negotiations and after the City's fiscal year began. I don't believe 6% pay/benefits covers both of those issues. Not even close. At least that is my understanding from reading the AAcom articles. Am I wrong?


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 4:56 p.m.

@Cash... I couldn't agree more. Did anyone here notice that we've heard nothing but negative comments from our 'city leader' Mr. Fraser regarding the Fire Department. The one and only time that an article is written where the FD gets to comment about what's going on, and now Mr. Jones slams the FD for taking this to the press instead of being at the negotiating table. Maybe he didn't read the part about the CITY walking away from the table, or perhaps he's never read the multitude of articles where Fraser has bashed the FD. You sir have hit the nail on the head with your comment in my opinion.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 4:19 p.m.

I have no axe to grind on the subject, but I think it the city manager and mayor coming to the media with their media spin was the sign of trouble on the horizon. They should have been talking with their employees, not the media. Communication and respect are key....both elements were missing when the mayor and the city manager came to the media spin zone. They blatantly turned their backs to their workers and spun their tale to the media instead. Now it's war instead of negotiation. And I'm sure attorneys will make the most out of this deal in the end, at taxpayer's expense. I think did a good job of reporting both sides. But in my opinion the spin done by the mayor and manager KILLED any efforts to find a solution, if in fact they wanted a solution. You get what you give. In this case the management disrespected the employees and threw the word "UNION" out there like a weapon. Having employed union workers for years I can tell you it is guaranteed that tactic will get you nowhere. If the contract needed to be renegotiated, that is a TWO-way street. The management must remember that THEY agreed to the contract initially. Therefore it is their responsibility to communicate openly and fairly WHY it needs to be renegotiated. I'm guessing the A2 firefighters are reasonable people and pretty intelligent as well. In this case I feel from what I've read over the past two weeks that management set out to spin the anti-union hatred to get their way, instead of simply respecting the human beings who work for them and being honest and open with them and keeping it out of the media. It would appear from what we see in Ann Arbor that there were some bad choices made by upper management, that are costing a LOT of money. Firefighters can see that too. Why not be honest and say "In hindsight, we should have done some things differently." I haven't heard that from any city upper management in Ann Arbor.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 3:54 p.m.

Could also have something to do with the fact that UofM officials are untrusting of the city leadership. Case in point, the will not offer any money as they know they can't trust the city. However, they did purchase a fire truck knowing that the city could not touch those funds and allocate them to a special project..... say... Roger Fraser Hall.

Ryan J. Stanton

Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 3:42 p.m.

U-M's Jim Kosteva pointed out that fire protection is only one of the service areas where city officials are finding the need to scale back because of projected revenue shortfalls. "This highlights the importance of respecting the lines of communication between the city and university so that, in the event leadership within the city were to advance some type of formal or informal request for assistance, it would likely reflect some prioritization of city identified needs where our mutual interests are served, and not necessarily the concern attracting the most attention today," Kosteva told me.

John Galt

Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 2:53 p.m.

The 6 percent pay cut is a good giveback. But the union cannot expect to be guaranteed jobs. No one has job assurances anymore. You get a paycheck and you do your job. --That said, we should make all attempts to fund the police and fire before some of the other "nice-to-have" services.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 2:45 p.m.

@belboz... that means average of one FIRE per day. Keep in mind the fire department does quite a bit more than fight fires. I would suggest that you look at the link in the article that breaks down the individual calls before making your comments. Again... knowing the facts before writing opinions is a much better approach.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 1:57 p.m.

The way I look at it is that police and fire are our insurance policies. We pay for them in the HOPES we never need them. Those of you who bash the FD for something that happened 15 years ago and HAS BEEN CORRECTED fail to see that 14 young men are losing their jobs. 2 Fire stations will be closed. 2 more trucks not responding to 911 calls. I guess those people will all get on the same band wagoon and say that we should dismantle our entire military. I mean how many wars do we REALLY have? Folks, if you want to post and complain about your FD, please come here with facts. So far the nay-sayers here have brought up nothing but what Fraser has repeated. In case you haven't caught on yet, he's a liar. Bring facts, or please, stop posting.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 1:47 p.m.

Mr. Lousbury, How would you like to pay for Fire Departments? Should we go back to subscription services, where you can opt out? In those days, fire departments would arrive, and without the fire mark on the house, they would watch it burn, but make sure the houses next door who paid the fee didn't. Believe me, if you let me choose what I pay for with my public dollars, I'd be opting out of a lot of things...


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 1:42 p.m.

ypsiman, why don't you drive by the fire stations and will find about 90% US made vehicles, most of them US built trucks... logo, modern construction makes firefighting MORE hazardous, not less...look at manufactured floor trusses, the amount of plastics, foams, etc...that are in modern homes... fires burn faster and hotter with more potential for collapse... the reason that there are fewer serious fires is that the fire service has done a great job of public education and innovation...smoke detectors save lives, as well as teaching kids and families how to dial 911 and edith drills... what some of you fail to realize is that you really don't want firefighters and the cost, until you need them. How about you pay minimum wage, and then when a fire breaks out and your home and family are in jeopardy, they come negotiate a wage scale for their hazardous work? Any takers? look, fire departments are your insurance against loss of life and property...their job is to respond, shift change or not, early morning or late at night, Christmas or Thanksgiving, at a moments notice...

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 1:40 p.m.

"When things are good in the PRIVATE sector companies hand out big raises and bonuses. When things are bad they take cuts. When things are good in the public sector...." What your leaving out is that when things are bad in the private sector they are correspondingly bad in the public sector because all the money for the public sector comes from the private sector.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 1:39 p.m.

Ypsi... you seem to think proofreading is for others. Despite that, you should consider that it is the legal responsibility of a city to provide police, fire and water services. All of the other stuff is just extra. For many years the city of A2 has had the ability to expand into many extras that made it a nice place to live. In order to safely protect and provide for a city the size of A2 it is recommended that we have far greater numbers of police and fire personnel. The current numbers are only marginally safe because the city has a very professional level of training and desire within its' ranks. While I will admit that many private sector jobs in the "real" world (how much more real can daily experiences of real life and death be?)don't have some of the retirement packages that public service personnel get, you have to remind yourself that these people don't live as long after retirement and they didn't get anything that the elected officials didn't give them. Maybe you should bunk up sometime and see just how "real" things can get. But whatever you do, be sure to clarify with the 911 operator that you don't want anything other than that privately operated ambulance, the next time you call.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 1:30 p.m.

aataxpayer - I work in the private sector NOT the government in any form!! I have not had a raise in over 6 years, and I took a pay cut to take the job I have. Luckily my company has not had to resort to lay-offs, but we've been on a hiring freeze years. I just don't think that wishing bad things to happen to others is OK under any circumstances. Saying "well, my company did lay-off's so your turn now" is ignorant. Contributing to the rampant unemployment in this state is not helpful. AND how in the world is anyone ok with paying the same amount of taxes for fewer services year after year? Next year Frasier wants another million from the fire department, that equates to another 10 fireman who won't come to our homes to help us. So, to all you conspiracy theorists, just because I care about this issue doesn't mean I'm a firefighter or work for the government, it just means I have an educated opinion.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 1:10 p.m.

Its seems the Fireman have it pretty easy there,they all have great pensions and benifits, A city cant carry the department forever.Iam sure there alot of fireman here writing,If you feel you can get a job elsewhere for the same pay and time at work with all the benifits go for it, maybe you forgot how hard it is in the real world, many unions are being ripped appart look at fords( and the big three) but the way how many of you drive american Dont rob the tax payers anymore than you have to. you dont have my support sorry times are tough everywhere


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 12:50 p.m.

When things are good in the PRIVATE sector companies hand out big raises and bonuses. When things are bad they take cuts. When things are good in the public sector they follow their contracted raises and no unnegotiated bonuses are handed out. When things are bad they still follow their contract. Its a trade off. If you want a little more stability and a little more job security work for the public. If you want big bonuses and pay raises with very little security go work private but dont come on here and cry about it when things are bad.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 12:48 p.m.

If Frasier is looking for more places to cut costs, how about looking at the city atoorney's office. Does Ann Arbor really need 7 full time attorneys? As for UM "pitching in", don't hold your breath. The city should consider a steep increase in its water and sewer rates (UM is the biggest customer). This would raise additional revenue while also encouraging water conservation.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : noon

Just for the record... I'm not a firefighter... but who cares if some of the posters are? Some of these comments are just lame.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 11:59 a.m.

I'd wager that those who rail against the firefighter's union don't have "Walk into burning buildings, save people and put out fire" in their job descriptions. As far as I'm concerned these folks are underpaid. In that the Fire Protection Fund is financed by a destitute state, I doubt what is "owed" the city will be forthcoming. It's time for U-M to pony up. They have a huge number of buildings and people that need protecting.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 11:51 a.m.

Jones - "games in the press". Telling the public that 2 fire stations are going to close doesn't seem like a game to me. Seems like something we ought to know about. Since you are obviously not going to tell us I commend and the firefighters for telling us.

Ryan J. Stanton

Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 11:15 a.m.

Yes, the mayor did propose a 3 percent across-the-board pay cut for all city employees. You can read that story here. We'll be following the talks closely and will report as soon as we hear of any of the bargaining units agreeing to that. On top of the 14 positions being eliminated from the fire department, Fraser already is calling for the fire department to come up with a proposal to trim $1 million from its budget by the next fiscal year starting in July and another $1 million the following year. You can read our previous reporting on the subject here.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 10:48 a.m.

@logo... maybe you should read before spewing your comments. The FD did agree to cuts. Double what the mayor requested in fact. It's the CITY that walked away from the table. So try reading this stuff before repeating the misinformation that Fraser has been feeding Also, where did the article bring up the art fund? Must've missed that one. Oh, and as you stated, "Thanks to modern construction." Is that the same construction style that came up with light weight trusses which cause fires to burn much faster and cause structural collapse. Or are you referring to the same 'modern construction' used in cities that don't require sprinklers? I love when people without the facts post.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 10:40 a.m.

The way I read the story it sounds like AAFD offered up 6% out of their salaries, whether pay of benefits it's still 6%. The article goes on to state that this concession was only to STAY the lay-offs through JUNE in order to give the union more time to negotiate with the city and find additional ways to save the money, other than lay-offs. It wasn't "in exchange for no lay-offs ever" as one poster tried to state. The FD doesn't want staff reductions because it isn't safe. In the private sector lay-offs may suck, but no one could get hurt or die. It's not the same thing, so stop comparing apples and oranges. And stop wishing ill on others because something bad happened to you at the crummy company you work for!!


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 10:34 a.m.

If the fire dept. won't negotiate to save their so called union "brothers" the city should follow through with the layoffs. BTW half the posters here are Fire Fighters. The same thing is going on in cities across Michigan and the US. Fire Departments are being cut back and stations closed. Look no further than Grand Rapids. Why should A2 be any different? It is tragic when someone is hurt or dies in a fire but because of modern construction there are a whole lot fewer fires than there used to be just 30 or 40 years ago. 90% of what the fire dept. does is chase ambulances when Huron Valley is already on the way or there. If you have been following it, not one penny of the $$ in the art fund came from the general fund so it can't be used to pay salaries in the FD. It would have to go back to the sewer fund etc.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 10:01 a.m.

I wonder if any of the department heads (Mayor,police chief,Fire chief,ect.) have taken any pay cuts or sacrifices whether it be voluntary or mandatory.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 9:55 a.m.

Didn't the Mayor ask all unions to take a 3% cut? And now the fire department is the first one to come to the table and offer DOUBLE what the mayor has been asking of the unions. Interesting tactic. The whole time the FD has been trying to keep fire stations open and trucks on the road. Despite what all the nay-sayers say. Interesting to see how many people will slap away a hand that's actually extended to help them because of the what lies they've been hearing. It's my understanding (a good understanding too) that the FD asked for only a 6 month extension to the lay offs while they showed CONTINUED reduction in costs. Despite what Fraser has been telling the press, the FD has already came up with over $800k in budget reductions, PLUS DOUBLE the wage reductions the mayor has called for. So, I wonder how willing the other unions will be to answer the mayor's call now that they see just how the cities 'negotiating' team truly operates.

Basic Bob

Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 9:29 a.m.

The University should be doing more to help. Every fire department in the state needs to respond to emergencies at public schools. Not every fire department has as much public land to cover as Ann Arbor. The city should send out a bill for all public services provided to the U, including police, fire calls, water main breaks, traffic control, etc. If there are cuts, they should be targeted at maintaining service to taxpayers.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 8:26 a.m.

Just wanted to note that this story was well done. There's a lot more detail on the issue here than there ever would have been in the Ann Arbor News, both in terms of the opposing views and of relevant background (university and state aid).


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 8:26 a.m.

That was 6% in pay and benfits. It would be interesting to know that break down. If it is the 3% pay cut called for across board and a slight increase in health costs that is not much of a concession for a gurantee to never layoff. It does seem rather interesting that Chief Jones thinks the Union shouldn't go to the press when he has joined the Mayor and Mr. Fraser in skewering the Union in the press for the last couple of weeks. Both sides are now, in essence, negotiating in public. So lets see what is on the board and stop being coy.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 8:09 a.m.

Boo Hoo Hoo, A2 cannot be expected to guarantee no more job cuts to the firefighters if they agree to a 6% paycut, that is ridiculous. At my company, we have all taken a 5% paycut, have had no raises in 3 plus years, they have cut the 401 K contribution and we have had to lay off hundreds of employees and our out of pocket weekly healthcare costs have doubled the past two years and has the deductibles. This article shows how "out of touch" all the unions are with reality. I feel no sorrow for them at all. I do agree with one of the emailer's here and that is huge cuts in the number of non union employees must be made and they too must take pay cuts and pay more for their health and welfare.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 7:40 a.m.

It is sad to see the Fire Stations close and fire fighters loose their jobs.( And putting the public at risk) Could AnnArbor.COM post the salaries of those in Administrative positions in the City of Ann Arbor. It is public record.The University does this at least once a year. The public would be surprised at the salaries and maybe request that cuts take place there.


Sun, Dec 20, 2009 : 6:54 a.m.

A sad....sad....sad day in Ann Arbor! Elected officials (CITY COUNCIL / MAYOR) placed in their respective positions to provide for the tax paying citizens of Ann Arbor, decide to elminate fire stations and personnel while continuing to build numerous structures, underground parking lots, and add an over priced non-american mae art piece to the new Roger Fraser City Hall. Citizens of Ann Arbor - whether or not you like the fire department or not - IF these cuts are implimented, THERE will be longer response times, larger fires, and possible fatalities - I truly hope your insurance is paid in full and your wills are signed!