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Posted on Sat, May 25, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Ypsilanti firefighters tentatively scheduled to make controversial presentation against hybrid model

By Katrease Stafford

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Ypsilanti firefighter Fred Williams III checks over the power tools on tower ladder one during his weekly check of the tower ladder.

Courtney Sacco I AnnArbor.com

Ypsilanti firefighters and state union fire officials are now tentatively scheduled to give a presentation before city council against the creation of a hybrid public safety department, after Council Member Susan Moeller finally secured a second in favor of it. However, one city official not in favor of the presentation said it's not exactly a done deal yet.

"This is not a case of trying to muzzle or trying to censor the fire department," said Mayor Paul Schreiber.

Schreiber said he's not in favor of the public presentation because the fire department is in negotiations with City Manager Ralph Lange. Schreiber believes the presentation will discuss the negotiations, which he said should remain in private.

Before a council meeting can move forward, the agenda must be approved and council members have the right to object to items, such as scheduled presentations.

Schreiber said he can't make an objection because he's the chair of the council, but if another member were to object the presentation, he would second it. Council would then have to vote on whether to allow the presentation.

"It's possible it can happen here," Schreiber said.

The presentation has been highly contested by the majority of the council members, who believe it would get in the way of current union negotiations. Schreiber said it will take four yes votes to change the agenda.

However, Council Member Ricky Jefferson has decided to second Moeller's request to add the firefighters to the agenda. Many council members have openly said they're not in favor of the presentation, citing negotiations as their reasoning.

AnnArbor.com reported last week that the Ypsilanti City Council declined to hear a presentation from Ypsilanti Fire Union President Ken Hobbs and state officials who are against the creation of a hybrid public safety department.

Moeller continued to implore council members to change their mind and Tuesday, the issue was brought back into the spotlight after Hobbs spoke during council's public participation portion of the meeting.

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Council member Susan Moeller

.Courtney Sacco I AnnArbor.com

"Shame on you for not allowing us, the city of Ypsilanti firefighters, on the agenda to present documentation strictly from a budget standpoint," Hobbs said.

Moeller said after hearing Hobbs speak, Jefferson reached out to her at the end of the meeting and said he would second the motion to have the presentation added to the agenda.

In order to have a presentation added to an agenda, a council member must first propose the addition and it must be seconded by another council member.

"After the meeting was over, Ricky came up to me and told me he would support my agenda motion to let Ken speak," Moeller said. "He (Jefferson) has always been an union man and he said they should be allowed to speak."

Jefferson told AnnArbor.com that no matter what position or title someone holds within the city, every person's thoughts in regards to policies and procedures should be heard and respected by city council.

"I do not expect one person to have all the answers that will secure the future of our city and effectively get us through the inevitable projected deficit of our general fund," Jefferson said. "I do expect all who are involved to work together and help ensure that my city gets through this predicament with a clear vision of which best practices are capable of maintaining quality service within the constraints of an already depleting budget."

Jefferson said the city is at a point where all branches of city administration staff and services must compromise.

"We are in a time of when what previously worked is failing and there is a need for outside the box government," Jefferson said. "We can no longer afford to trust in business as usual models.

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Council member Ricky Jefferson

"I believe that negotiations are the most important part of collective bargaining. It is my understanding that the information that the firefighters will present before council will be documented material about the PSO model. As an elected representative of the city of Ypsilanti I am responsible for exhausting all accessible options of best practices, both pro and con opinions of those practices, in good faith before I make any decisions."

Moeller said she believes the firefighters should be allowed to speak because she believes the majority of discussion about the PSO model has been done at the negotiation table and not in the public.

"The public hasn't been informed that it's being considered," Moeller said. "It's important that they present. It hasn't really been anything that the public can comment on. I don't personally support the public safety model and a lot of people in my ward don't."

Moeller said a lot of residents are interested in hearing the presentation and have written to council asking why they wouldn't consider it.

The firefighters have said the presentation will not discuss elements of the union negotiations, but Schreiber adamantly believes it will cross the line.

"(This) screams negotiations," Schreiber said. "Just by council member Moeller's own words, this is a union negotiation presentation in the public. ... I would certainly welcome a presentation after the contract. As soon as it's settled, I have no problem. Let's have a good public discussion then."

Moeller said it would make no sense to have a presentation after the contract is settled because elements of the PSO would likely be included in it. In April, council approved the Police Officers Association of Michigan contract, which contains language related to the possible creation of a hybrid department.

The contract allows the POAM to incorporate the position of public safety officer into its union. In the event that the city elects to create the classification of a public safety officers, unit members who become PSOs will receive 7 percent above the police officer wage scale.

Schreiber said if the contract were to contain PSO elements, it wouldn't lock the city into moving forward with the model if it were to decide to pursue something else.

"The city can always go back," Schreiber said. "It's a flexible thing, at least in my way of thinking. This isn't something where you make a decision and can't go back on. We, meaning the city council as the policymakers of the city, need the ability to decide what we want to do. That's all I'm asking for. The fact they want to have this discussion now, to me there's not a reason for the discussion now."

The presentation, PSO Facts vs. Myths, is scheduled to last for 30 minutes at the June 4 meeting. In addition to Hobbs, the Michigan Professional Firefighters Union president Mark Docherty and MPFFU PSO Committee Chair Monty Nye will present.

Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for AnnArbor.com.Reach her at katreasestafford@annarbor.com or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.

Comments

ChelseaBob

Tue, May 28, 2013 : 1:21 p.m.

I think I'm like the majority of the public who would like to learn more on this subject. Certainly hearing everyone out is a positive? Combining departments intrigues me, but not because I want to cut any of the guys in the trenches. Management absorbs far too much of the budgets these days, so perhaps merger of administration is in order?

Steve Pierce

Sun, May 26, 2013 : 4:09 p.m.

Ypsilanti City Council has heard past presentations from the likes of the John Birch Society and a presentation about Wild Horses destroying the environment in Colorado and the West. If Ypsilanti City Council votes to block the presentation from the firefighters, it makes you wonder what some on City Council are afraid of. Could it be a fear of Information and perspective? Our elected officials should want to hear information from experts before making decisions on how to spend millions of dollars of taxpayer money? I applaud Mr. Jefferson for standing up and joining with Ms. Moeller to hear this presentation. Thank you.

Colby

Sun, May 26, 2013 : 3:15 a.m.

Ypsilanti is fortunate to have Dr. Moeller on Council.

Dan Cain

Sun, May 26, 2013 : 3:09 a.m.

Just a few points of clarification on this subject. First I would like to say that I am a 25 year member of the City of Ypsilanti Fire Department. That being said one of my responsibilities is to protect not only the Citizens but the City itself. When a decision as important as this is being made the members of the Department feel that it is our obligation to assist the city in making the most informed decision on all aspects of fire protection. It is unfortunate that a presentation such as this that would only assist the council in making a more informed decision has been turned into so many other things. Secondly it is correct that both Mark Docherty and Monty Nye are not state of Michigan officials. Mark Docherty is the elected president of the State firefighters union. Monty Nye is a member of the Meridian township fire Department which several years ago converted to a public safety department only to change back to a traditional fire and police after finding it to be not cost effective or operationally efficient. Both recently made a presentation to the state department of treasury where it was demonstrated that PSO is not cost effective and operationally deficient as well. If we are truly looking for the most cost effective model for service to our citizens than we should be gathering facts and figures no matter where they come from. Lastly if we are truly looking at a long term solution for cost effective fire protection than we should be examining regionalization. This has been proven to be both cost effective and in most cases an improvement in service throughout the country. Absolutely members of the fire department have an interest in this decision but as important as anything is the solvency of the City where we have dedicated our livelihood. Allow this presentation to take place and the citizens and council to do whatever they want with the information given

BenWoodruff

Sun, May 26, 2013 : 12:09 p.m.

Capt. Cain, well said.

jklep12

Sun, May 26, 2013 : 1:47 a.m.

I hope they are allowed to make their presentation. I'd like to know more about this.

yourdad

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 11:40 p.m.

What are the city council persons afraid of??? Let those that plan to serve the citizens of Ypsilanti (for 25 years or more nearly 3000hrs per year) have a moment. When was the last council person still involved in city services 25 years later? The specific skill sets and career mindsets are so very different between Police and Fire. Logic tells me that when the fire department is on a call with the only staffed rig, I certainly wouldn't want to see a patrol car pull up to a fire hoping that some mutual aid department is on the way. Since the county sheriff already patrols all sides of the city, why don't they just swallow the hole in the donut too? Lets talk about removing the entire police department and move to a county system that is already in place! Get rid of the duplication of services from her Majesty the Public Safety Police Chief Director (aka puppet for Schreiber). Shouldn't the taxpayers of Ypsilanti City hear as much information as possible before their elected officials make waste of the last of the money in the pig?

Speedy Squirrel

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 10:58 p.m.

Put aside the "I hate everything union", Fox News filter for a minute. I would like to hear how the same people that are expected to patrol the city will also attend fire emergencies. Any way you cut it, it means reduction, either in fire protection, or policing. I think we understand what less policing means intuitively. It means criminals are more apt to get away. We do not understand what less effective fire fighting means, at least I don't. There's quite a bit of specialized equipment to fire fighting. Are the police going to be able to use it effectively? I want to hear more about that. Also, how are they going to multi-task community policing and fire fighting. Won't criminals start fires so that they can loot and pillage while the police are busy putting it out?

LC

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 9:38 p.m.

The fire fighters are doing an injustice to the residents of Ypsilanti. They care more about their jobs than they do providing the most efficient form of service to the taxpayers. They should be ashamed of themselves.

trespass

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 4:33 p.m.

When is the meeting? Did I miss it in the story or is it not there?

HermanP

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 3:03 p.m.

Thanks for clarifying that the MPFFU members are not state officials.

Dog Guy

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 1:10 p.m.

Ypsi Council could have a blindfold and earplug stand outside the June 4 meeting.

HermanP

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 11:43 a.m.

I would not call Mark Docherty and Monty Nye state officials. They are simply union presidents who don't want to lose money if there is an more efficient fire department with less MPFFU members.

Brad

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 12:47 p.m.

Unless they work for the state in some official capacity they aren't "state fire officials".

Katrease Stafford

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 12:09 p.m.

I don't think it's a stretch to call them state fire officials though. I've clarified that in the story.

trespass

Sat, May 25, 2013 : 10:59 a.m.

The Ypsilanti City Council now believes in free speech!