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Posted on Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 6 a.m.

Ypsilanti officials outline proposal to eliminate 6 firefighters, 5 police officers

By David Wak

Ypsilanti City Council members and department heads agreed Monday they don't want to cut public safety personnel in the city, but they say they're faced with hard options and few choices.

During a special budget meeting Monday evening, City Manager Ed Koryzno outlined a plan that would cut six positions in the 18-member fire department and five positions in the 35-officer police department.

The board took no action on the cuts Monday, but discussed the details at length. The council will meet again for a special budget session Jan. 19.

Koryzno said the city needs to make the cuts because of losses in taxes and state-shared revenue. He said the cuts would obviously impact city services, but there are few options.


Ypsilanti City Manager Ed Koryzno

"These are the worst economic times to hit our state since the Great Depression," Koryzno said.

The city is working to cut $1.4 million of its $14.9 million budget to balance it through 2013. Koryzno and the City Council have held several budget sessions since last summer and say 80 percent of the cuts are expected to come from emergency services.

If the cuts are implemented, the city would save $441,000 for fire services and $520,000 on police services.

"The reason we are where we are is because we've cut all other areas," said Council Member Bill Nickels.

If the fire department was reduced from 18 to 12 firefighters, it also would likely be reorganized from three shifts of five firefighters to two shifts of six - although it's likely only four firefighters would be available most days to deal with emergencies because of time off and overtime costs.

Koryzno said any scheduling change would need to be negotiated in the collective bargaining agreement before it could be implemented.

Fire Chief Jon Ichesco said the department would have to rely more on mutual aid from neighboring communities. Ichesco added that four firefighters would be enough to adhere to the federal firefighting rule of "two men in, two men out" during fire responses.

The proposal calls for the police force to be reduced by eight from 35 to 27 officers. It also includes a plan to use drug forfeiture money to pay to have two of the officers work for LAWNET, a multi-jurisdictional, countywide undercover narcotics team. That would save two jobs; one city officer already works for LAWNET.

Another plan also was discussed and involved having a three-officer drug enforcement team work strictly in Ypsilanti. But that concept wouldn't have the financial backing or resources of LAWNET.

New Police Chief Amy Walker said she sees positives and negatives with both options.

The council also recently approved shifting its four police and fire dispatchers to work for the county's dispatch center, which will save the city $158,000 a year.

Several council members peppered Koryzno and Ichesco with questions about the two-shift system, possible overtime costs, and how much money the staffing cuts would save the fire department in the long run.

Mayor Pro-Tem Trudy Swanson-Winston said she's concerned the cuts would leave the fire department too thin to respond to emergencies.

"What are you going to do when one of you calls in sick?" Swanson-Winston asked.

Firefighter Scott Maddison is one of the six who would be laid off. He questioned the proposed cuts, saying any savings would be partially eaten up by overtime costs that he calculated at $192,000 annually. He said four-firefighter teams aren't enough to cover other emergency responses, such as downed power lines or auto accident extrications.

Firefighter Ken Hobbs, the union president, said he doubted neighboring fire departments could always be relied on to help Ypsilanti when they're also cutting services.

"You can't rely on your neighbors when they're having layoffs also," Hobbs said.

Ann Arbor officials planned to lay off 14 firefighters this month, but a tentative deal was reached to postpone the layoffs, while Ypsilanti Township is considering buyouts for some of its firefighters.

Ichesco said Maddison's $192,000 figure in overtime costs is inflated and estimated the actual costs at somewhere between $130,000 and $160,000.

Emergency services isn't the only area targeted for cuts under the proposal. Koryzno proposed a 5 percent pay cut for all non-union city employees, along with mandatory 13 furlough days annually. The city would also lay off two part-time employees in the finance department.

In addition, Koryzno proposed the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority start paying for city services, namely maintaining parking lots in the DDA district, which he said would bring in another $35,000 annually.

Swanson-Winston suggested the city attempt to hold off the cuts as long as possible - perhaps until early summer - so the city and fire and police officials could search for other ways to save money without job cuts. 

But Koryzno said the council should make a decision on the proposal no later than mid-February.

David Wak is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 5:20 p.m.

this is getting way off track and I hope all of the firefighters keep there jobs and the communities continue to fund them and Police. HVA does not get moneis from government entities and LCEMS and HVA along with the fiore departments give us a great service. Everone seems to forget that and this became a diatribe of dribble so I am OUT!


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 5:17 p.m.

I also agree that firefighters are apart of the backbone but, they are not the be all end all. Most firefighters in the W/L medical control arena operate as MFR departments two levels below HVA is that who (FF) you want making your decisions about going to the hospital. remember that so long as you are competent you can refuse transport and HVA has no charge for an assessment. If a paramedic is pushing you to go to the hospital and you do not want to go as them to contact medical direction. they will call/radio a hospital ER and a MD will then make the determination. NOT the Medic.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 5:12 p.m.

ybecuz I hapeen to work full time in one of these fields and HVA does not make medical control. that would be Washtenaw Livingston medical control and a real medical doctor is in charge, Dr. Domeir. And if you want to investigate in Livingston County only Hamburg and Greenoak respond to all medical calls. All other departments operate on a separate response level. NO where does this say that HVA or LCEMS are the medical directors


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 4:55 p.m.

Livingstontramp, while I appreciate your sense of civic duty by volunteering, you are trying to compare apples and oranges. I am referring to full time departments that are subsidizing HVA's current run procedures. I am not criticizing the manner in which HVA provides EMS care, they are among the best in the industry. What I was saying is that without the fire depts. assisting, they would not be able to render the same care as they do now. Your belief that the fire depts only respond on occasional medicals is totally misinformed. They respond to almost all medicals. Every time you see an ambulance running lights and sirens, a fire truck is responding also. This consistant belief that firefighters are all chubi and just sit around waiting is beginning to get tired and worn. And dont confuse "medical control" with HVA, they are essentially one and the same.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 10:30 p.m.

Really I am sorry you seem so bitter about all of the government cuts but I did not state that the firefighters sit around all day and were not necessary. Just trying to point out that HVA is not a rich company that just tries to make money. I feel that FF are extremely necessary and no public safety should be unreasonably cut, managed correctly yes, but not unfairly cut as it seems is being done. I would think that yes, HVA and Livingston County EMS are in favor of all the help that FF provide. I also am in public safety (fire,police and EMS yes, have worked all three) I have never seen a medic try to coerce or force a patient go to a hospital unless MEDICAL PROTOCALS mandate this. It seems as though you are insinuating that firefighters are the only ones who can make the right decisions. Well medical Control makes most of the decisions of who goes or not. Are you saying that fire departments should take on the responsibility of medical control, or the doctors and the state should? HVA/MCA was invited into Monroe County to assist and replace an out going private company. Monroe city was not covered by MCA until City fire reduced its staff, and they still do not cover the city only come in when REQUESTED!


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 9:44 p.m.

Bfair, are you suggesting that the Mayor Pro Tem doesn't live in the city? I would really like to know about that. I attend a lot of city council meetings. Over the summer I attended 6 to 8 meetings. Trudy Swanson-Winston made it to one or two. At one point in Monday's meeting, she started opening and reading her mail during the procedings, the second time I have seen her do so. I don't live in the first ward, so I can't speak to her service record. She may be fantastic at her job. But what I have seen in the council chambers sometimes makes me question that.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 7:47 p.m.

As a fireman, I can tell you, HVA managment has stated before that "they don't need the fire department". They (HVA) are also the cause of many Monroe firefighters losing their jobs. Yes, HVA does often call the FD to help. I especially love when they call because they can't lift their EMPTY cot up a flight of stairs and need the FD to carry their equipment for them. Is it 100% of the time? Of course not. But 75%. HVA has created a VERY sour relationship with FD's and their organization all over the areas they cover. HVA tries to force people to the hospital when they don't want to go and will charge for "advanced life support" when all they do is provide a taxi ride to the hospital. I'd rather see firefighters respond with ALS credentials who actually care about the residents in the city they work.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 5:58 p.m.

ybecuz you should do better homework and maybe will for this. HVA does get help on alot of medical calls from firefighters (do you want the firefighters to just sit in the station (being paid) waiting for the few fire/accident calls or use them as the taxpayer expects) but in the last year Ypsi. Twp. and City have both set new policy to only come on imminent life threats and believed pin in needing extrication. HVA must request help if needed and Fire will then respond. the Fire Departments are definitely being squeezed but so are the other agencies. Check out HVAs' payment percentage from calls and I would bet with insurance being lost with job loss it is around 30 percent, tough to run any company on such poor payment. I would bet that if the fire department had another call that the paramedics would just say see you later and thanks alot for your help. all of the emergency personnel have to work together or nothing gets done fire police and EMS


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 12:36 p.m.

There was mention of the city having 9 million in reserves. Realising that this money should not be handed out like we are Obahma on speed, it is for emergencies, and the current situation could and should be considered an emergency. The fund should be dipped into just deep enough to keep the public safety, Fire and Police, going without loosing personnel.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 11:39 a.m.

Mr Koryzno, Who are the members of the DDA? Aren't they the very people who are helping support the city? Taxpayers? People who are trying to make a "go" of it and barely hanging on in this Michigan economy. Reaching even deeper into their pockets is insane. And may I add...if it costs $35,000 to clean out those few lots, the city is overpaying for it. The lots are dirty. And I have seen business owners sweeping up broken glass and picking up trash themselves. So sticking it to them even more is beyond cruel. If you lose a couple more of them, the city will be bankrupt. Pick up the phone and call EMU, Dr Martin's office. Ask if they'd like to support a couple of firefighters.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 11:30 a.m.

Ref. Mayor Pro-Tem Trudy Swanson-Winston, dont you have to be living in the City of Ypsilanti to be a City Official???


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 10:18 a.m.

Maybe it's time to let HVA pay for some of the services that all of the fire departments subsidize. This "non-profit" rakes in $25 million annually by using the manpower of the taxpayer supplied fire depts. HVA collects its dollars from the insurance industry and pays nothing to the very personnel which provide it its ability to perform the service (insert your local firefighters here) If they collect $400 per call and provide two medics, I think it would more than fair to give $100 to those that bring at least two to four of the people that allow them to even do their job. This would bring in millions to the departments that are performing the lions share of the work on medical scenes. HVA's monopoly on medical services is sustained by the same taxpayer that will see reduced fire protection due to smaller forces being tied up on medicals, unable to respond. Or maybe I just have an altered LOC.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 10:17 a.m.

Over twenty years ago a small informal group looked at fire services in the Ypsi area. With the upcoming (at that time) retirements of "brass" and ever increasing costs, merger of the three major fire departments in eastern Washtenaw County into a single Fire Distrct appeared to be the most viable alternative. That idea was eradicated by those who saw it as an attempt to merge Ypsilanti Township and the City of Ypsilanti into a single municipality. We are now at the crossroads foreseen by that group. Unless we are prepared to return to the "good old days" of volunteer fire departments, and abandon many other municipal services to which we have become accustomed, serious consideration of a single Fire District concept should begin immediately, regardless of the other political consequences. We don't need an outside consulting firm with a multi-million dollar contract to "look into" the problem. The problem is patently real and requires immediate action. We have both the intellectual and common sense resources within our communities to create a proposal in a very short time frame, and at a minimal cost, and present it to our fellow residents (elected representatives included). Will it be the "camel's nose under the tent" as to City-Township merger? It could be, but the City itself is no longer viable as a municipality. It's time to start dealing with reality and put aside the half-century old petty personality driven political strife which has prevented amalgamation. [Another alternative would be for the City to spend like a drunken sailor on leave, force the city into bankruptcy, have the State dissolve the city's corporate status and add the City assets (the land) to Ypsilanti Township. No expensive election, no petty political blockage - just reality.] We are wasting enormous sums of money through the duplicity, and in some cases, the multiplicity of supervisory/management personnel at the municipal level. Perhaps the only positive aspect of the current economic situation is that it has finally brought us to our senses. We have been spending, like a drunken sailor on leave, on wasteful municipal government expenses. It's time to become watchful and efficient.

dading dont delete me bro

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 9:12 a.m.

"You can't rely on your neighbors when their having layoffs also," Hobbs said. hobbs hit the nail on the head.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 7:26 a.m.

I wish a reporter would go down the street and ask Susan Martin what EMU can do for the city. While EMU can just raise tuition when it wants more money to spend, the City of Ypsilanti continues to provide services to them for nothing. It's time for state universities to step up to the plate and help the taxpayers.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 7:10 a.m.

The councilperson quoted should read Trudy Swanson, please at least check the names of your sources in these articles, this appears shoddy. the dog


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 6:24 a.m.

Maybe it is time for the City of Ypsilanti to just contract fire services with Ypsilanti Township. They have a bigger department and could easily handle the axtra volume with some cash from the City. In the same breath, the City Police have been well skilled in heavy volume calls so maybe they could contract to provide police services for the Township instead of the Sheriff? I wonder if that would be a win win for the City and the Township?