You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, May 10, 2011 : 4:40 p.m.

Student and employee groups ask University of Michigan to try to stop cuts to Ann Arbor Fire Department

By Ryan J. Stanton

A coalition of student and employee organizations at the University of Michigan is lobbying for the university to help the city of Ann Arbor avoid deep cuts to the city's fire department.

With 12 positions slated for elimination in the fire department over the next two years, U-M students and employees are requesting that President Mary Sue Coleman, the Board of Regents and Provost Philip Hanlon take steps to intervene.

"We believe that the university needs to intervene to prevent further reductions in service," the letter reads. "It would be unconscionable for the University of Michigan to stand by and allow this trend to continue. We do not want a tragedy to be the trigger for the university taking action while the ongoing safety of U of M students and employees is put at risk."


Deep cuts are proposed to the Ann Arbor Fire Department, and students and employees want the University of Michigan to intervene.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The letter is signed by the leaders of six different unions and two student organizations, including the U-M Central Student Government, Lecturers’ Employee Organization, Graduate Employees’ Organization, U-M Professional Nurse Council, International Union of Electrical Workers, U-M Skilled Trades, Students Organized for Labor & Economic Equality and AFSCME #1583.

The Ann Arbor City Council meets on Monday to consider the city budget, though it appears likely a vote won't happen, and the meeting will be continued to a date to be determined later this month.

The letter does not specifically ask that the university kick in funding, but rather asks that university leaders "immediately use all the political influence you have" in Ann Arbor and in the state Legislature to prevent further budget cuts to the fire department.

"We're letting them figure out how to work this out," said Bonnie Halloran, president of the Lecturers’ Employee Organization at U-M. "We know they already own one of the fire stations. We know some of this has to do with money coming from the state, and some of it is about Ann Arbor city politics, so it's whatever they deem necessary."

Halloran said the university's physical properties — valued at more than $5 billion and including more than 33 million square feet of building space — are important state investments and ought to be protected with appropriate fire prevention services.

According to information supplied by the firefighters union, it now takes almost six minutes on average for one fire engine to get to the scene of an emergency.

"The risk to life and property are enormous," the union claims in a statement appended to the letter to U-M. "In the past 10 years, there have been numerous fires in off campus neighborhoods that have resulted in fatalities, 'near misses' where students have had to jump from windows or roof tops to escape a fire, and total loss fires involving fraternity houses."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.


Steve Sommers

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 2:35 p.m.

Civic Pride? Why should the firefighters have to subsidize your fire department. I live in Pittsfield and as you saw recently WE pay for our fire department. We don't ask the firefighters to pay for it.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 9:47 p.m.

(continued from above...hit the submit button by accident) on call then i guess their website needs updating. Nobody is saying the firefighters should "pay for our service". Some folks think they should make some concessions with respect to some benefits. Thats not the same thing.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 9:44 p.m.

I took my numbers straight from the Pittsfield Township Fire department web page. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> So if there are not 21 full-time supression personnel and 10

Steve Sommers

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 7:44 p.m.

Wrong its like 25 full and 5 Paid on call. Accodring to the interview with Harshberger They don't pay anything toward health care. They do have pensions. But you are right we don't have a university. But we also don't have 110,000 residents. So I still don't get why you want the firefighters to pay for your fire service. You should pay for it.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 5:25 p.m.

but nearly 1/3 of your fire department is paid on call according to the website. So those firefighters I am guessing do not have benefits package like insurance and a pension. Correct me if I'm wrong. And you don't have a University to cover that is not making their payments.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 1:14 p.m.

The Michigan Fire Protection Grant program was created (pursuant to Public Act 289 of 1977) to provide payments to local units of government for fire protection of state-owned buildings. The &quot;formula amount&quot; of these grants is based on the assessed value of each state-owned building. The fund source for this program was to be Liquor Purchase Revolving Fund (LPRF) revenue. Due to budgetary restrictions in fiscal year 2003-04, fines from violations of Public Act 165 of 2003 (The Driver Responsibility Act) were designated as an alternative source of funding. Unfortunately, the state grossly over-estimated the potential revenue from these fines and funding for these grants fell significantly short of projections. There have been several attempts to find alternative funding for the grants since 2004 - including funds from highway use permits and fees from the use and sale of Class B and C fireworks - but have largely been unsuccessful. As a note of interest, in the FY 2003-04 appropriation, the &quot;formula amount&quot; for the City of Ann Arbor was $1,602,993.19. The city actually received $395,737.02 - or about 24.7% of the formula amount. The estimated FY 2004-05 allocation was $749,338.94 - but I could not find any documentation of the actual amount paid to the City of Ann Arbor during FY 2004-05 or for any subsequent years. Bottom line ... Why are we constantly trying to re-invent the wheel??? There is a state program in place to reimburse local units of government for providing fire protection services to state-owned properties (including state university property) that is not being properly funded or administered. As citizens, and registered voters, perhaps we should be demanding some accountability from our state representatives regarding these funds??


Thu, May 12, 2011 : 12:10 a.m.

Very nice and informative. Maybe you can get a job writing for It would be an improvement.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 2:19 p.m.

that's the stuff i thought i remembered.

longtime AA

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 12:47 a.m.

Since the U of M does not pay taxes, each year takes more and more land off of the tax rolls, and then desires more and more services (more U of M building adds to AA fire department workload, for example), I wonder if these employees and their unions, would give up some of their pay and benefits so there would be money to give to AA for fire department services? Or would students pay more tuition for these services? We live in a situation where we can no longer do everything. Choices--hard choices--will have to be made. Will students pay more tuitioin so money can be passed on to the city? Will the city give up subsidizing golfers so streets can be repaired? Will state money go for education or jobs? Will education money go for K-12 or community colleges or 4 year schools? Do we give money to programs like the film industry program or do we cut business taxes and hope that jobs come through that? Just like on a personal level--my rent goes up, do I pay for it by cutting back spending in local restaurants or by cutting Comcast? Persuasive cases can be made for everything. The choices are not fun or easy, they must be made, and not everyone will be happy with the results. We live in a great society and country--let's hope the choices we make will help us get past the current economic downturn and lead us to better times for ourselves and our children.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 2:40 a.m.

@longtimeAA: Maybe students SHOULD pay more for it, if they're the reason for the additional burden on the department.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 11:28 p.m.

I wonder if the Fire Fighters civic pride would come into play and they would reduce their benefits and pay to better protect the city and the city council members get their act together and provide public safety first and then worry about the other NON-ESSENTIAL departments! Both side are wrong, I wish we had a city council member/candidate who had a pair!


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 1:53 p.m.

AAFD took at 3% pay cut last year, and was the only union to do so. if you had been paying attention you'd know that.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 11:01 p.m.

I t seems like I remember reading somewhere that the State is supposed to reimburse city fire departments that cover University's but they haven't made a payment (or full payment?) to any of those fire departments in some years. Does that ring a bell with anyone else?


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 9:48 p.m.

Let's be clear. If the U continues to act as it's own country with it's own laws, let them pay for their own Fire Department the way they do for their own Enforcers. Or charge them for any U property related runs. How is that or fair?


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 2:38 a.m.

*errantly activate


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 2:38 a.m.

I remember when I lived in East Quad and &quot;hall ball&quot; was a major sport. The only problem was that every time the ball hit the stupid fire sensor thing it would set off the alarm and the AAFD would have to send trucks to the dorm. I had fractured ribs and pneumonia over winter term and I'm pretty sure we were all evacuated at night at least five or six times for NOTHING because the students couldn't be trusted to not errantly activating the fire alarms. Beyond that, how many fires in Ann Arbor are student-related? I would be willing to bet that there is at least a moderate correlation between student status and involvement in a &quot;near miss&quot; or fire scare. Part of it probably has to do with age and first-time independence (and the carelessness that goes along with it) and part probably has to do with drug and alcohol use on campus. If the U is responsible for inflating the number of young adults in the Ann Arbor area, and if a lot of the calls are to serve either University properties or University student housing, I think it's fair to ask them to foot the bill for the runs and possibly support for infrastructure/staffing to accommodate the University-related additional demands on the system. (And maybe if they need to fund it, they can pay for it out of the professors'/docs' salaries or some special programs instead of always freezing staff pay when cuts need to be made.)

Lifelong A2

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 9:12 p.m.

Let's be clear: this letter signed by the unions is not about public safety. It's about union solidarity. The firefighters are using their usual playbook to scare people into protecting their status quo. They reached out to these unions and asked them to write this letter. The Fire union needs to bring its benefits programs in line, and change the way it does business. THAT would save most -- if not all -- of the jobs that are on the chopping block.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 9:39 p.m.

Factual? Proof please.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 8:56 p.m.

Ah. Now sit back and see what new posters &quot;appear&quot; to spout the administrators line about the evil firefighters and then pile on votes all night.