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Posted on Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 4:34 p.m.

Paid on-call fire department proposal draws interest from Ann Arbor officials

By Ryan J. Stanton


Ann Arbor City Council Member Sandi Smith, D-1st Ward, listens during today's budget retreat. City officials discussed the possibility of implementing a paid on-call system to cut costs of the Ann Arbor Fire Department.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Ann Arbor officials say they're open to considering implementation of a new paid on-call firefighting system as an option for cutting costs at the Ann Arbor Fire Department.

The idea emerged today during an all-day city budget retreat as city officials brainstormed ways to address future shortfalls in the city's budget.

The city's general fund budget currently totals $81.45 million. The fire department, with 89 full-time employees budgeted this year, accounts for about $13.8 million of that.

Police Chief Barnett Jones, who serves as the city's public safety services administrator, said there are three kinds of fire departments throughout the country: Career departments made up of full-time employees, volunteer departments and paid on-call departments.

Due to economic conditions, Jones said, many cities are moving in the direction of a hybrid solution, blending existing career departments with on-call firefighters to reduce costs. He said Troy is the largest example of such a setup in Michigan.

According to the city of Troy's website, the city's fire department there has 11 sworn and one civilian career staff members and an authorized strength of 180 volunteer firefighters.

"In most communities, they have a paging system," Jones said of fire departments utilizing the paid on-call approach. "They have people who are certified firefighters. And when there's a call, it goes out, their pagers are alerted, and they all respond to the scene. Someone from the station brings the vehicle apparatus to the scene and they fight the fires."

Mayor John Hieftje and City Administrator Roger Fraser both expressed interest in the idea, as did some council members. They said the number of fire-related calls in Ann Arbor has been on a downward trend for many years.

"So it's time for us to evaluate it at least," Fraser said of switch to a paid on-call system. "We do think it's something worth evaluating."

"We're lagging sort of behind the industry best practice," said Council Member Stephen Rapundalo, D-2nd Ward, referring to other cities using paid on-call systems.

Jones, who went through fire safety training this past year and is now formally certified to be a firefighter, said it's nothing more than an option to consider at this point.

He said the idea hasn't been discussed yet with the staff of the fire department, but he "absolutely" expects resistance from city firefighters.

Dominick Lanza, the city's fire chief, was not in attendance at today's meeting. A representative of the firefighters union could not be reached for comment.

Asked how a paid on-call system might work in Ann Arbor, Jones said he won't even begin to broach that topic.

"That's something we have to sit down and talk about," he said. "The fire chief will be central to that and that discussion point will come from a policy made by City Council and the mayor. They have to make the policies on this. It's in their court."


Mayor John Hieftje said during today's budget retreat he's in favor of examining the option of a paid on-call system for the Ann Arbor Fire Department.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Fraser said there's evidence that paid on-call systems are working well in other communities, and "it's certainly something that will be talked about" for Ann Arbor.

"I can tell you when I was in Minnesota, in the entire state of Minnesota, there were only five, maybe only four, full-time paid fire services. Everything was paid on-call or volunteer," he noted.

"The issue that's in front of us, I believe, is to reconsider what we're doing and be open-minded about what the appropriate outcomes ought to be," he said. "At this point, what we're trying to do is get a specific set of understandings about what it is we do and what the alternatives may be, and then take that conversation to the community."

Neither Fraser nor Jones had estimates of what it could save the city to switch to a paid on-call system.

Hieftje said Troy is a "really good laboratory" for Ann Arbor to study.

"I think it's worth investigating what is going on there," he said, adding that Troy seems to be doing fine with the system. "I think that we owe it to our citizens to explore all options, and if there's a very highly ranked community not very far away over in Troy, it's easy for us to take a look."

Due to labor contracts, city officials said it likely would take a long time to implement a paid on-call system, but Fraser said the city has to start somewhere.

Fraser said fire suppression now accounts for less than 10 percent of how city firefighters spend their time — much of it is spent responding to emergency medical calls, he said.

He said the city is in negotiations right now to have Huron Valley Ambulance, a nonprofit community agency, assume responsibility for handling all emergency medical calls in Ann Arbor, ending the fire department's role in such matters.

Council Member Mike Anglin, D-5th Ward, said the city needs to be upfront with the public about its intentions for the fire department. He predicts the issue could turn political in a hurry.

One thing is certain, Rapundalo said: "We cannot sustain the path that we're on."

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



Mon, Jan 10, 2011 : 9:19 p.m.

I certainly understand the intense budget pressures that all municipalities are facing; as a member of a large regional based fire services agency in California - our agency has also faced the same immense pressures to contain cost. The Fire Services in California long ago recognized the importance of undertaking the EMS mission, not at the cost of its fire response duties, but to compliment it - it makes sense both tactically and strategically. As the debate moves forward I hope the leaders understand the importance of engaging a thoughtful discussion with not only Fire Leadership, more importantly its members - Union, Association whatever you call it, make no mistake about it your Firefighters should be part of this dialogue. Its unfortunate as quoted that this could get political - lets remind the politcos that at the end of the day, they are entrusted to ensure for the safety and well being of their constituency. The fire service and the men and women who have dedicated their lives towards this profession are called professional for a reason, they are highly trained, educated and dedicated to their vocation. I think you will be surprised at the creative and collaborative nature of the Fire Services, I challenge you to see this as an opportunity to build, not tear down your Fire Department - by the way, the Paid Call program - doesn't work - we had a similar system and despite massive budget outlays to prop it up and sustain it, it died a slow death, turnover, lack of availability - and more... has resulted in a complete top to bottom revamping of the system - remember why we have a 911 system, police, fire - our community counts on those services to be prompt, efficient - and the people who provide that service are trained and supported accordingly.


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 1:27 p.m.

Let's face it, the primary reason for the escalating costs to run this City are high costs of health care insurance. Requring city employees to pay 20% of their health insurance would put them in step with the private sector workers and save the City millions of dollars per year without adversely effecting service. Then let's talk paid-on-call firefighters.


Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 7:02 p.m.

For Ed and Townie, according to 2009 statistics on the Washtenaw county site (and much linking) to each department site, AAFD ran 5680 total calls for service, Chelsea ran 1287 in it's total coverage area which appears to be quite large, Dexter 898 while Pittsfield ran 2500 calls. If the Cheif of Troy needs 200 employees to run 1500 calls per year, how can 80 AAFD employees run over 5000? Somebody please tell the empire that Troy is not a comparable once and for all.

csi junkies

Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 6:40 p.m.

So isn't HVA a privately owned company? And I'm assuming they are in business to make a profit? So how much will this cost the taxpayers when our loved one is having a medical emergency but they don't need transport to the hospital?


Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 4:03 p.m.

That's great Ed, but I don't believe in an engineering test to force a conclusion that apples do indeed equal oranges. Ann Arbor has an incredibly dense student housing situation serviced by very narrow streets. Ann Arbor has nothing to compare to the six-lane divided "highways" like Big Beaver Rd. There is also not a major university with an enrollment of nearly 50,000 students, along with administrators and support staff. Statistics can be made to support any position one pleases. All I know is that my taxes keep going up and city services keep dwindling. I believe a line should be drawn at core city services like the fire service. BTW, the idea that HVA can adequately service Ann Arbor along with all the other surrouding communities is hogwash. Regardless of what city administrators say, HVA cannot perform the same services AAFD can. They do not have the staffing levels and do not have nearly the training our PROFESSIONAL fire department has. Bread and circus...


Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 1:14 p.m.

Emperor Hieftje just keeps fiddling...


Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 1:08 p.m.

Another HORRIBLE idea put forth by the city. If anyone likes the idea of firefighters in their own cars trying to rush through football Saturday traffic to save your loved one, then move to one of the townships. I'm tired of my city taxes increasing every year while services are slashed to make way for pet projects. Last I checked, Troy doesn't have a major university. Just because it works in Troy (which in no way compares to Ann Arbor) DOESN'T mean it will work here.


Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 6:40 a.m.

You are welcome. This debate would benefit from more facts & less rhetoric. Per capita income is all income divided by all people; not the best measure, average/median income per worker would be better, this is one aspect where the cited article could have done a bit better, but the BLS does publish the better metrics, and they have been cited and discussed onsite as well. The average US total compensation rate is about $57K per worker per year, far less than the ~ $104K city worker pay. You'll hear city employees claim their experience, and education level, and special skills should allow them higher pay; in reality, these claims don't wash; many overeducated/irrelevantly educated private workers out there are paid much less than their 'education' level suggests they might be worth. The firefighters were treated exceptionally poorly last year, by suffering layoffs after voluntary concessions. A very few other city employees have made minor concessions; most continue earning way above what they would in private industry. It would be great if we could provide great pay and benefits for all workers. We cannot, for many reasons. Good luck.


Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 1:18 a.m.

Thanks for the link Alpha. Without studying it all in detail I did notice that the base pay of the average Ann Arbor city employee is higher than the base pay of a firefighter. And, I did see that the average per capita salary was somewhere around $30,000, but what I still don't know is who is included in that per capita number. I have to assume it is including the wages of waitstaff, retail personnel, etc --- those working part-time or temporary jobs to get through school, etc. However, I really don't know. I also noticed that the firefighters took a 3% plus pay cut recently. (Did others in the city also take a 3% pay cut?) A lot of the costs seem to be wrapped up in the benefits. And, truly, I would like to see these same kinds of benefits available to every employee. In the long run, (I think) it makes for a healthier, safer, and therefore, less costly community down the road.


Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 12:12 a.m.

CincoDeMayo - Here is an excellent link to a documented and referenced story which discusses and compares A2 public and private employee compensation. It clearly shows city workers earn far more than the average A2 worker: While some commenters (Really?) prefer to diss the messenger, the fact that Really? (likely a public employee) does not actually either challenge facts with facts, nor bring any facts to the discussion, is quite telling. If there were any facts to support the rhetoric that public employees are underpaid, we'd be reading about it. As it is, the average A2 employee is compensated, in total, enough to be comfortably in the 92nd percentile of all earners. It's no wonder they want to keep their wages high. Who wouldn't? The issue is, can we afford to, in the new age of austerity? Many believe not.


Mon, Dec 6, 2010 : 4:50 p.m.

For all of those that keep saying that it works here and it works there, think about this. Ypsilanti Township was part full time part paid on call, they did away with it cause it did not work. Ypsilanti City - Same thing. Pittsfield township just recently cut almost all of their paid on call and beefed up their full time staff. They are down to 4 or 5 paid on call firefighters with a full staff of full time firefighters. Why? Because it wasn't working. Pittsfield was far to busy for this system. Now consider Ann Arbor has about 4 to 5 times as many runs.


Mon, Dec 6, 2010 : 3:32 p.m.

First of all, Jake, why dont you let us know where you work. Flat out I used to be a Troy Firefighter, and because you saw a fire that went bad you dont have the right to bash their department. Im sure you lose them once in awhile as well, as did the metro Detroit full time department that burned down a dwelling because they failed to recognize that it was balloon framed a couple of weeks happens. Second of all, for Chief Jones and everyone else that wants to look at Troy as a model for Ann Arbor, can't happen. Troy did most of its growing between 1960 and 1990. Their City was developed around a volunteer fire department with extremely rigid fire codes and a rigid inspection program that continues today, thats the luxury of having a more modern developed city. This will never work in Ann Arbor due to the fact that the city was not developed that way, and its not a transformation that you can make. I believe there are other solutions, but turning Ann Arbor into a complete paid on call department is not one of them.


Mon, Dec 6, 2010 : 3:16 p.m.

To Jake, I wouldn't take shots at Troy unless you can take them. Assuming you really are a Detroit firefighter, your department has a really bad reputation when it comes to attacking fires and burning down homes. If the call you are talking about did happen mid day, I am pretty sure Troy has staff on duty during that time just to keep the record straight. As I said in my post earlier, using Troy as a model wont work in AA for the simple reason that Troy evolved into a mixed department where in AAs case we are talking about letting go full time firefighters. No paid on call or full time firefighter would ever support that and the animosity in the department as you are showing would be disastrous.


Mon, Dec 6, 2010 : 2:56 p.m.

"I think it's worth investigating what is going on there," he said, adding that Troy seems to be doing fine with the system." That is a bunch of crap. I am a union firefighter in metro detroit. I personally watched with my own two eyes Troy Fire Department burn down a single story dwelling, with minimal fire in the attic with the first truck on scene. It was mid morning on a weekday and there wasn't anyone around to respond to the fire. The direct result of not having enough man power was a homeowner losing EVERYTHING. Being a paid on call firefighter isn't a full time job. Paid on call firefighters usually have full time day jobs doing something else....good luck with this Ann Arbor. Fools...


Mon, Dec 6, 2010 : 12:29 p.m.

In general, a mixed department can work, but, probably not in AA. Enough full time staff is needed to provide an effect and timely first response. This is especially true if AA is going to stop doing medicals unless requested. Non-fire responses I am guessing are a majority of the cities current calls. Something like Pittsfield runs could work except the initial response would be full crews. Unfortunately, work relations in this case are not practical or realistic. From a union standpoint, the IAFF technically doesn't recognize paid on call firefighters (Troy is MAFF) and actually has wording in its bylaws I believe forbidding members from working for a paid on call or volunteer department. They have obviously made exceptions in fear of loose huge members (NYC). One really big reason this is probably a really bad and not practical concept is that the full and non-full time firefighters need to work together and the tension between the two would probably make that impossible. Non-full timers are taking jobs away from career people and that would never generate a friendly working environment. Troy grew into the system it has today. Other mixed departments that work started without full timers. Based on articles in the paper over the past couple of years, a mixed department that has ongoing tension is Novi. It is a nice idea, but, implementation is almost impossible. In the end you and me would suffer from the decrease in response times.


Mon, Dec 6, 2010 : 11:42 a.m.

SELL YOUR HOMES WHILE YOU CAN... This city is falling to pieces.. Taxes are rising and so will Insurance rates... Heres a Good one why does'nt all the City Officials take a pay cut like the fire department did several months ago.. Make them pay for thier own vehicals and health insurance etc QUIT BUYING ART and Trees.. Why does it always have to be Police and Fire???


Mon, Dec 6, 2010 : 10:30 a.m.

I'm with jcj. Let's keep our Fire Dept (and police too) and have an "On-Call" city administration. I have yet to read that the city is cutting back on its staff - seems like its always fire, police, residential services or parks under attack.

Blue Eyes

Mon, Dec 6, 2010 : 10:24 a.m.

Why not do like a recently publicized TN town and charge an annual fee to every property that wants fire protection. For those who don't pay, the Fire Department responded and stood there and watched the home burn to the ground. They were only there to be sure that the fire didn't spread to adjacent buildings or land. Paid-on-call for Ann Arbor is just as ridiculous. After the City destoys the Fire Dept, followed by Police, what will be next? How about eliminating all manager jobs added in the last 10 years instead. If the City had fully funded the VEBA trust when it was supposed to, the cost of retiree insurance would be much less than it is now. As usual, the City is paying as little as possible now so someone else can figure out how to fix the problem later.


Mon, Dec 6, 2010 : 10:06 a.m.

When Alpha begins using TRUE sources (like actually talking to a real firefighter) instead of living on the internet, I'll begin to give credit to his comments. Until then... happy surfing.


Mon, Dec 6, 2010 : 10:05 a.m.

Its about time the city figured this situation out, why are we as citizens paying the fire dept to duplicate EMS services? Why does'nt HVA just beef up the number of units assigned to our sity and use the fire dept for major incidents only like accidents, fires,Not breathing calls,water rescues etc. This would reduce the number of Firemen needed to operate the city. Perhaps if they had 2 man trucks instead of 3 man trucks and used the call back system for additional help when needed our city could save lots of revenue. Also its my understanding that our neighboring depts can be called to assist if need be. Ann Arbor just does not have enough fires to justify a need for as many Firefighters as we currently staff.


Mon, Dec 6, 2010 : 9:40 a.m.

Hey Alpha - thanks for the further clarification. As with any worker, there are various reasons why most firefighters do not live in Ann Arbor. I still maintain that cost is a factor. I am interested in your statement "Many sources show the average city employee, including firefighters, actually earn more than the average Ann Arbor resident." Not because I don't believe it, but because I am wondering who the "average Ann Arbor resident" includes. And, again, even when true, does not mean that affordability is not an issue. For a single person, an Ann Arbor Firefighter's wage is not so bad. For an entire family, maintaining a home inside of Ann Arbor, it becomes more of a challenge. Regardless of the affordability issue, (and I appreciate your insight on the relative level of the firefighter's salary), in order to be effective, a paid-on-call firefighter must live very close and not be otherwise committed (say in another job that covers the cost for him or her to live close by). I guess I am assuming that the paid-on-call firefighters will not be paid as much as the full time firefighters are.... I once worked at a paid-on-call department, it was effective to a point. Eventually the firefighters moved on to "real paying" jobs, which demanded that the department have a constant and intense training program for new recruits. Or they grew families and took them further away to more affordable communities which affected both the response number and time.


Mon, Dec 6, 2010 : 9:34 a.m.

I have an idea. How about we only keep the drivers full time and make the rest of the department volunteer? Works in many cities (big and small) around the country. Saves a LOT of $$. This is a BIG idea and a BIG change...scary in a society that likes to keep the status quo to protect their benefits and pensions.


Mon, Dec 6, 2010 : 6:20 a.m.

"Far too expensive for most Ann Arbor Firefighters to afford...." Respectfully, this part is simply wrong. Many sources show the average city employee, including firefighters, actually earn more than the average Ann Arbor resident. Many people who work in town, choose to reside elsewhere, for many reasons.


Mon, Dec 6, 2010 : 12:49 a.m.

Oh...I have so much to say...however, there is only one thing that I will say right now that hasn't been mentioned yet: Ann Arbor is a very expensive place to live. Far too expensive for most Ann Arbor Firefighters to afford. While many would like to live in the city, most of them do not. Those who do live in the city struggle to raise their families here. Many of the firefighters do not even live in the county. The ability to live in the city, or county, using paid-on-call wages will only decrease. While paid-on-call firefighters can be just as professional and educated (until responsibilities call for them to get a full time, better paying job doing something else) they can not respond effectively unless they live very nearby - and are not otherwise committed, when the emergency call comes in.

Fat Bill

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

How about a regional, combination paid/POC fire department? The city can offload the responsibility for the fire department by committing the stations and apparatus to a new regional entity. Areas with high call volumes would be served by fully manned stations, while those in the country would be serviced by POC firefighters. If you made this entity county-wide, and taxed accordingly, you would have one administration, and no problems with mutual aid, etc. Obviously, this would be tough to implement with the turf battles that would ensue, but if times are getting that desperate, perhaps everybody could benefit from such an arrangement. An example of this that I am familiar with in a major urban area is Tualitin Valley Fire and Rescue, which protects the majority of Washington County, Oregon in a combination format...


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 9:17 p.m.

So. Worst case scenario: Major blizzard with unplowed streets. POC firefighters with pagers living all over the county, responding to a major fire at U of M Hospital. These POC firefighters are all supposed to converge ASAP at one location. Scares me.


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 7:54 p.m.

Columbus, Ohio, Iowa City,Iowa, Madison, they have a full time fire dept? Answer: Yes. They each have significant responsibility to keep students, faculty and staff of a major university safe. As well they each have historical campus facilities that must be kept safe. Compare Ann Arbor to these cities. Troy only came into being in 1955 and does not house a major university. There's no commonality to the two cities except they are both in Michigan...but then so is Engadine. Maybe that will be the next "city" Barnett Jones will compare Ann Arbor to.


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 5:32 p.m.

They've got to be kidding. Let me share some personal information here. Long ago I worked EMS out of state. I worked on-call in our home town as well as on a full time basis, so I can shed more than a little light on several aspects of this issue. Ridiculous! No need to wax eloquent here. A stupid, money saving idea that will only serve to endanger the residents and visitors to the city. Some questions and facts, obviously ignored by the enlightened leaders of our comunity: Will a paid call system respond in as timely or efficient a fashion as a full-time professional one? Will insurance rates for city residents go up? Will there be a high turnover rate among city firefighters as a result of this? What about the increasingly technical training required? This isn't backwater Podunk, but a real city. I served full time out of city fire houses in an East Coast city of about 100,000. We were private EMS employees-paramedics and some EMT's- quartered alongside the city employed firefighters. Yeah, the firehouse routine is ok in between runs, but the firefighters and we earned every penny we made. Long shifts away from home( try responding to 15-17 runs per 24 hours for EMS or 4-6 calls for fires-with all the response time and clean up, etc that entails), sleep deprived nights, dangerous circumstances. This madness about cutting government has to stop somewhere, so it might as well be an enlightened city like Ann Arbor. Follow Troy's lead? That would be the city that's about to close its library. Do we want to follow a place like that? Combine police and fire services? That was talked about 25 years ago, too. What a joke! Maybe the business and politico types who suggest these things should multi-task between 2 jobs, say human resources administrator and IT. They can go between 2 offices as their duties require. We'll see how well things work out. Police and fire services are two VERY DIFFERENT callings, as is EMS. Again, I know, since I was there. Two very different types of personalities and talents, and the nincompoops suggesting that it'll all work out aren't looking at the bad results from some areas where it's been tried. My God, they had full time fire departments well over 100 years ago in cities. Are they going to try to take us back to an era of dirt roads, no running water and wooden shacks? It's bad to cut anything, but our pols need to take a cue from one of my undergrad psych classes from long ago: think Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Life comes before everything else. I am a public employee now in another county and what I do is very valuable, but police, fire, EMS come before parks, services to elderly, even roads. Come on people! I'll be there when and if this goes before the council.


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 4:51 p.m.

I have an idea, lets make all jobs in the world volunteer jobs. That way, nobody needs to get paid for what they do lowering our taxes. Lets start with city government. I'll do that for free. I have no idea how to run a city, but how hard could it be? I'm sure the citizens won't mind. If the current city leadership cares about the city so much, do it for free! How come firefighters all always first on the chopping block? Let's have paid-on-call cops. Wait, then crime will be through the roof. Lets have paid-on-call teachers. Wait, our kids would not get a proper education. Let's make everybody take their own trash to the dump. Sounds a little rediculous. As for the person who posted Minnesota has only 4 paid departments, that information is wrong. Minnesota has 10 fully paid departments and 43 combination departments (paid and paid-on-call. The state of Michigan has almost double the population as the State of Minnesota and triple the population per square mile. That is not comparing apples to apples.

Geek Chick

Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 4:44 p.m.

In 2010, a student died from a fire set by a serial arsonist who has never been caught. About a year ago, a power line blew onto M-14. The same day, a power line was blown down onto I-94 and... a DTE substation in southwest Ann Arbor exploded. We need every damn fire fighter we have!!!


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 4:30 p.m.

Most of the Townships in the county have a few full time fire fighters and the rest of the people are members of the local community that are on call. Many communities in the area have a Police Auxiliary that is called for events (Like the UofM football game?). In both cases it fits the needs of the community. Whatever Ann Arbor decides to do, it needs to fit the needs of the community. There was a discussion more than a year ago about a single fire department for the county. That it was needed to reduce the response times and to lower people's insurance premium (yes, the quality of your fire department impacts the amount you pay for home owner's insurance). I wish Ann Arbor well in finding ways to close the budget gap. Like all levels of government it will be a painful process this year (and probably next as well).


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 2:37 p.m.

Quick question: Are we going to pay someone a consultation fee for this pretense?


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 1:59 p.m.

@ GoBlue "Maybe we need an 'on call' city government - we'll call you when we need some real work done." That won't work. They hire consultants to make the real decisions! Lets just call them when there is a ground braking ceremony and a photo is needed.


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 1:41 p.m.

I am more amazed at this council weekly.Council Mantra:I think,therefore I'm out of touch.We can pay taxes for a big urinal on the side of the city building,pay for a study to see how to spruce up our entry points into the city etc but we need to cut mainstream services.I was ok with the no tree pick up but this is a bit more important.


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 1:25 p.m.

Troy does not house the University of Michigan!!! Funny how no one mentioned the elephant (UM) in the middle of the room! Many UM buildings, while historically significant, are OLD. Troy is a relatively new city, and much smaller in population. Troy Fire Dept is not responsible for a 40,000 student population with all of the challenges that go with that! The City of Ann Arbor talking heads always skirt the real issues...that they are responsible for the UM buildings and the UM student population. You can't just shove that fact under the table. And the way this was handled,offering it to the media without the presence of the FIRE chief, it truly lowers my opinion of Barnett Jones even more. I guess that's what you get from a person who used to take homeless people to Ann Arbor and dump them. Talk about lack of respect! He disrespects the poor and he disrespects those who work for him. Now that guy could be cut and save us a lot of money.


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 1:21 p.m.

It's a great idea, imagine how many ways the city could blow the money they save by disbanding the fire department.


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 1:04 p.m.

Wonder how much the city would take in if it started charging for Sunday parking...another income source. Anyone have any info on this?


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 12:56 p.m.

I'm sure there are outstanding volunteer firefighters and I thank them very much! Can they respond to something for a school or large building? Will they have the equipment, knowledge and training to save lives? Deal with something (God forbid) like 911? Most volunteers have a career to pay their bills. Will they be able to leave their job if called to duty? Go to work the next day if they were up all night? Will the volunteers need to certified and take classes and training? Some hospitals did this with nursing--replace nurses with nurse aides to "save money." Guess what happened? People took longer to recovery if they didn't die first!


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 12:29 p.m.

Keith A. Johnson said: "One important item over- looked. Ask the residents of Troy and other cities that this program has been implemented and find out if their home insurance rates have gone up due to the fact they do not have a full time fire dept.? Read your policies and look to see if having a full time fire dept is a discount item or not. Lower taxes/ Increased Insurance Payments." First of all, taxes won't go down if the AAFD becomes a "paid on call" department. But they most likely won't go up as quickly if this does happen. I just paid my Farm Bureau homeowner's after raising my deductible from $500 to $1000 to save money. My agent did verify with me how far I am from the two closest fire departments, niether the paperwork or the agent asked if they were volunteer or full-time paid departments. I had to call the Milan Fire Dept. several years ago when I had a small grass fire due to not watching my leaf/brush burning properly. Was a weekday around 3 p.m. They showed up within 10 minutes with 4 guys in a 4 wheel drive Ford F-350 small water truck. I was very pleased with their reaction time and luckily I was able to put out the fire before they got to my house. In speaking with them, all but one of them was off site and had to be beeped or called into service. They are a volunteer Fire Dept. just as Saline is and I was very impressed with them. BTW--I didn't even get charged for the run. Volunteer firefighters are every bit as professional and capable as full time paid firefighters.


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 12:20 p.m.

For those thinking to "contract" out the work, here is what happens: The lowest bid wins the contract. The lowest bid who underpays their employees and gives no or crappy benefits to employees to win contracts. Quit your job and try working for a "contract" company like that. Please tell us how long you last in that company.


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 11:49 a.m.

Here's a scenario on how this will work: In the new City Hall the Chief of Police will be located on the ground floor near the door closest to 5th Ave. His job will be to run across the street to the Fire Station and open up the doors and start all of the Fire trucks. Mr.Fraser and the Mayor will then proceed to the nearest elevator and use the "gold key" that is chained around their neck and place the elevator into express service to the ground floor. Both will then proceed across the street where an argument will ensue over who gets to drive which fire truck. Now, several of our "on call" fire fighters will be positioned in various areas of the city (Kroger, on an AATA bus, in the movies, and the unemployment office, or stuck in traffic on Washtenaw to name a few!) when the pagers spring to life there will be a percentage that will be unable to respond for various reasons, not the least of which is that they have other FULL TIME PAID COMMITMENTS, or busy tipping a few at the loacl watering hole swapping war stories. Thankfully, our Police Chief is a certified Fire Fighter, is the Mayor and Mr. Fraser going to become certified as well? (and yes I realize how I left this question open) That's because this is a really bad idea!

Brian Kuehn

Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 11:21 a.m.

The insurance industry rates the City of Troy's fire protection as "03" on a scale of 1 to 10 with "1" being best protected and "10" least protected. This is not a rating of the fire department but rather an evaluation of the overall fire protection afforded in a community. The City of Ann Arbor is rated "04". Both "03" and "04" are considered very good and property rates will in part reflect these ratings. At this point, insurance rates in either city have not affected by changes in the level of fire protection.


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 11:13 a.m.

I was under the impression that paid on-duty was kinda the same thing, they are on shift duty waiting for a fire at the firehouse, meanwhile performing other tasks and keeping the equipment ready, cleaned etc. Paid on-call just means they could be at home picking belly lint while being paid to do so.


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 11:09 a.m.

ASTF fire department? (Always Save The Foundation) Really see if A2 residents would be satisfied with the results of on-call service. I highly doubt it. I'm guessing the general consensus is to save more than the foundation of their home. Stay tuned....the head of the water dept is going to fire school and is going to suggest all residents pull their water hose to the front yard and provide self-service.


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 10:43 a.m.

Step back. Whats good for the goose is good for the gander. Lets see this concept through and test it for the entire City and County model. Since taxpayers pay local, state and federal taxes why not consider consolodation? Do we really need 3 bus services (UM, AATA & Schools)? What about state, local and county police? City Council? Lets just hire a competent management firm with a 1 year contract. Road Commission and Water & Sewer? Outsourced. Just like any other big company "The City" can have at will contractors and firms performing most of the duties and services. Then if the citizens aren't happy they simply can have the hired management firm take care of the interviewing and changeover. No more pesky unions or term appointments we have to agonize through. You don't perform & you're out like any company. Like it or not the city tax base has changed forever and we need to consider being as flexibile as possible to adapt to these changes. The new police force is one unit and the same goes for the re-combination of the cities & townships which is unfair to the cities (more demand on services with smaller tax base). Ghost are you with me on this one?


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 10:34 a.m.

Why don't we sell that sculpture art thing from Germany? Oh wait it's depreciating in value as the days go by so that won't work. Maybe we could stop hiring expensive consultations? Troy Michigan? Minnesota? OK really and please. Keep the fire department please. Could save a life and for you city council who is only concerned about decreasing services to "save money"-- a lawsuit. Thank you Fire Department for being here now!

Kai Petainen

Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 10:27 a.m.

If you want some $ for the AAFD, here is an idea to get them some $. Solve the Huron River spill mystery. Whoever did it, make them pay the AAFD and give them a hefty fine... Give that $$ to the AAFD and you'll save some jobs.

Keith A. johnson

Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 10:27 a.m.

One important item over- looked. Ask the residents of Troy and other cities that this program has been implemented and find out if their home insurance rates have gone up due to the fact they do not have a full time fire dept.? Read your policies and look to see if having a full time fire dept is a discount item or not. Lower taxes/ Increased Insurance Payments11

Go Blue

Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 9:08 a.m.

"We're lagging sort of behind the industry best practice," is an interesting comment. Are we also lagging behind in property taxes as well? Meaning, while other area communities are reducing their property taxes, is Ann Arbor continuing to raise their taxes? Are other communities far below the millage rates charged in Ann Arbor to begin with? The point is, Ann Arbor will no longer handle mass leaf collection, terminated holiday tree pickup, is discussing reducing fire protection, wants to cut, cut, cut but doesn't in the slightest consider reducing what goes in their own pocket first - no reductions in property taxes and zero reductions in payroll for those making these decisions. Lead by taking the first cuts, then come to the city residents and A S K what can be trimmed or cut. If not, since we are one of the most expensive places to live, stop messing with what is important to the citizens. Something is wrong with the lopsided equation. Maybe we need an 'on call' city government - we'll call you when we need some real work done. Some people just don't get it and it seems our elected officials fall in that category.

Ron Dankert

Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 9:01 a.m.

I agree it's worth considering, and I applaud the City's work in this regard, however I have to believe response time, and actual firefighting work will accordingly be longer. There will be other, newer (dollar and safety) costs that will occur as a result, such as training and coordination of firefighters will have to be achieved in other ways, and given the "progressive" nature of this city government and others, there will be mandated increases in prevention. There will be more and more regulations and ordinances placed on property owners, with ever-increasing attendant taxpayer expense, including such things as required sprinkler systems in all new or renovated properties, more fees and inspections for taxpayers. There's still no free lunch.

Matt Damon

Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 8:08 a.m.

Where do I sign up? I'm sure the AAFD will welcome me with open arms. Sorry, not worth the $15 or so an hour to put out fires for rich people.


Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 8:06 a.m.

First of all i think this is a bad idea for Ann Arbor yes. Second I am on a paid in call department we DO NOT just show up and spray water from the oitside WE MAKE ENTRY just like full time depts also on medicals 10 guys dont run through your home we are clean and educated so we use as few people as possible so please dont insult us saying we dont fight fire from in and that we are stupid we are dedicated and work hard thank you

Tree Logger

Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 4:48 a.m.

We could cut costs while directing firefighters to focus on "damage control" - working to limit annual total monetary damages to victim's homes. High-value properties would then receive all available vehicles and only when the last home of an aristocrat is put out would the low-value properties receive service. Efficient! In fact, I actually happen to own a local fire fighting business and would love to make a lot of money when you eventually privatize and sell everything including the Bible. I also would get to further elevate my priority status while you poor folk continued to die by fire.

Kai Petainen

Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 2:24 a.m.

BTW... you can read the AAFD incident report here and see the hard work they did.

Kai Petainen

Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 2:20 a.m.

This past summer, the AAFD responded to a petroleum and chemical spill into the Huron River. It covered the river widthwise from my vantage point, as it flowed for hours and moved past the arboretum and down towards Gallup Park. They worked hard on establishing multiple booms and pads, conducting the initial test on the spill (88% confidence of phosphoric acid), and identifying the location where the spill moved from the outfall and into the river. The spill involved a lot of work, as it involved: 1 Rescue Unit, 2 Trucks, 2 Engines, 1 Chief Officer Car, 2 Hazmat Units, 6 D/O, 8 FF, 2 LT, 1 CAPT. They worked for almost 4 hours at containing the spill. "Alarm: 19:17:53, Arrival: 19:24:21, Controlled: 23:04:43, Last Unit Cleared: 23:04:43" -- AAFD Incident Report The AAFD worked hard. But, they had to turn it over to someone else... "The scene was then turned over to ####, and a gentleman by the name of ####, who informed us he worked for ####, told us that #### was taking responsibility for the incident since the storm water pipe came from the #### property." -- AAFD Narrative Incident Report, July 19th A few weeks later, a vegetable spill occurred in southern Michigan. The DNR and the EPA responded to it and investigated. Do you know that the DNR and the EPA never showed up at the petro/chemical spill in Ann Arbor, but they investigated a vegetable spill in Milan, MI? You know who showed up, the AAFD showed up. In fact, with regard to the spill, the DNR said this, "There are no obligations for #### to make public notice for an incident like this". This spill was never solved. No one was charged. The actual source was never found. But, the AAFD worked hard. But why am I telling you this? Because as I stood on the bridge and watched the petroleum flow down the river beneath me... it was the fire department who showed up. It was the fire department that worked hard to find the spot where it was entering the river, it was the fire department that I saw working on it... and they were concerned as this was not a common occurrence on this section of the Huron River. At the spot I stood, I saw the anger/frustration/sadness in their eyes as they saw it flow past me. It wasn't the DNR or the EPA who was here to help (they investigate vegetable spills, but avoided this spill in Ann Arbor)-- instead it was the Ann Arbor Fire Department who was here to help. They were the heroes, and they were the ones to whom I am grateful for the quick response. Although I am critical that the petro/chemical spill in Ann Arbor this summer is still unsolved, the cause is "unknown" and the case is closed; I am very thankful for the hard work and quick response time that the AAFD provided before handing off the "responsibility for the incident" to another entity. They are to be commended for their work. Their work is not limited to just fires, but spills, gas leaks and other threats that might endanger the environment and our health. Well done AAFD. My sincere thanks to your hard work. Almost everyone in Ann Arbor never saw the hard work you did that day, but I saw it and I thank you.

Michael O

Sun, Dec 5, 2010 : 1:38 a.m.

If a U of M building caught on fire,who would respond? The U of M fire department? It's way past due that the U start paying for city services.They pay nothing in taxes.NONE.


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 11:29 p.m.

It never ceases to amaze me how cutting police and fire is always the answer. How much did the city pay for the NY firm to say that building site downtown is ok to build? The University is right here and I am pretty sure smart enough to tell the city yay or nay on such proposals. This proposed idea is bad. It is like standing in a puddle of gas waist deep and asking for a light for a smoke.


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 11:20 p.m.

"didn't we just have indications that Ann Arbor might close down a street because of possible terror threats at Michigan Stadium" No, we had an irrational, out of control idea by a newbie UM police chief. It didn't take long to realize that any threat significant enough to close a street is significant enough to close the stadium. No more 'threat'...

Jim Mulchay

Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 10:37 p.m.

First - is this really an "industry best practice" (Council Member Stephen Rapundalo's phrase) or an alternative that appears to be financially attractive (and what "industry" is referred to - city management or fire prevention?); Second - didn't we just have indications that Ann Arbor might close down a street because of possible terror threats at Michigan Stadium - if the potential threat is real enough for that, it is probably worth having a paid full-time fire department. I think council member Anglin is quite correct - this will be political. Is it possible to get some sort of a comparison of Troy to Ann Arbor? Population, single family residences, multi-family dwellings, etc? What does East Lansing, Berkley, Madison and Palo Alto have for fire protection?


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 10:30 p.m.

There is a fifth option, best avoided. In a very surprising move, Wayne County employees just had their pay reduced by 20%. Whether that move withstands court is open to question; that the cut is even attempted is a reflection of the extent of the new age of austerity. Hopefully Ann Arbor can avoid having wages set judicially.


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 10:25 p.m.

So how much is all that? Hmmm?


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 10:20 p.m.

The problem with the paid on call system is that every firefighter who responds is entitled to be paid. How do you define "responds"? Does it mean the firefighter has to arrive at the scene or merely get in his truck and start driving there? The vast majority of 911 calls are false alarms, or other non-events because some yahoo on the highway calls 911 when he sees a car sitting at the side of the road which could be a guy looking at a roadmap and not a medical emergency. By the time 6 firefighters arrive the guy has gone on his way and the taxpayers are stuck with the bill. So many 911 calls called in as "medical emergencies" turn out to be nothing more than a guy who has overeaten and whose wife calls for an ambulance. Ten men arrive in their private vehicles and tromp through the house creating havoc and more stress. The cost to the taxpayers is enormous as the firefighters have to respond to get paid. So the system fosters dishonesty and overreaching. Trust me I know what I'm talking about here.


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 10:13 p.m.

Those critical of the proposed changes may want to avoid study of Troy, MI., a city reasonably similar in terms of size and commercial hazards. Their cost saving system has worked well for years. Alternately, there is a fourth option, evidently unmentioned. $13.8 Mil shared by 89 firefighters = over $155K per person this year. Fourth option: compensation reductions. This would allow new city hiring, better services, and lower taxes. And not just for firefighters, for all 760 city employees.


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 9:46 p.m.

Mr Fraser has all sorts of ideas to decrease spending, but no regards to the decrease in services. A fire department that relies on people being paged to arrive to an emergency is one that sprays water on a burning building from the outside. This is a reckless disregard for safety for the 120,000 (+/-) citizens, the thousands of people who work here, as well as the huge number of visitors. This reeks of more political pressure being shoved down the unions throats.


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 9:08 p.m.

This may look good on paper but, a city of over 100,000 with a major university has no place running a paid-on-call fire service. Please don't get me wrong, I am a POC FF myself but the unfortunate reality of a paid-on-call or volunteer service is that the Fire Service is getting more and more technical. This means that firefighters must put it many more hours of training each year to learn and retain everything there is to know about how to serve the public. This is a huge reason POC and volunteer departments throughout the US have such a hard time retaining good people, there just isn't time to train and work a full time job. The article did not mention the option of a "combination" department. Many municipalities surrounding A2 run this type of staffing, where in there are a certain number of full time FF's with others working as POC FF's and responding only when needed. This type of system works, and might in A2 if the FD only ran fire calls. As for the Police chief commenting on this, it is unfortunate but more and more Police chiefs are running both sides of public safety. Nothing against Police chiefs, but Fire and Police services should never be grouped together, they are totally different entities and should be treated as such.


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 9:03 p.m.

I would vote to keep these bloated city departments in place, because then our taxes would raise even higher in the future and it would keep all the crime/losers closer to ypsilanti. Like they say, vote with your feet!


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 7:58 p.m.

How much did it cost the city to send the POLICE chief to fire school? Is the fire chief going to police school? Is that why he wasnt at the meeting? Or did Jones ask him not to go so he could speak in his place about the fire budget without scrutiny.


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 7:49 p.m.

Police Chief Barnett Jones, who serves as the city's public safety services administrator. Kind of like having the head of the bus drivers union involved with negotiations with the teachers union. Conflict of interest? Me thinks I will pay only 50% of the tax bill I just got. Because I sure am not getting the services I am charged for.


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 7:20 p.m.

I find it very disturbing that the Police Chief is at this retreat advocating that the FIRE department go to paid-on-call service. Why is the Fire Chief not at this meeting? And why is the Police Chief the spokesperson in his place? While it seems like a great way to reduce the city budget, we will still continue to pay outrageous property taxes while our home owner's insurance premiums increase because our insurance companies DO pay attention to what type of fire department we have when calculating our premiums. And all the people who bitch about long response times now can get used to it. Response times will only increase with a paid-on-call department.


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 7:04 p.m.

Wow, what a surprise, a Police Chief looking to cut the Fire Department's budget. How about using volunteer cops?


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 6:57 p.m.

Believe you mean Al FrankEN.


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 6:53 p.m.

Less service and no decrease in taxes. Once again.


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 6:53 p.m.

I grew up in a town that had a volunteer fire department manned by dedicated folks who responded at all hours. Problem was, the response time was pretty dismal and fires usually resulted in the complete destruction of the house or barn. With a major university and hospital in Ann Arbor, not to mention a small airport, this is just a bad idea.


Sat, Dec 4, 2010 : 5:44 p.m.

Well if its good enough for Minnesota, the state that elected big time wrestler Jesse Ventura governor and comedian Al Frankin US Senator, its not good enough for A2. In doing some cursory research on these types of Fire Departments you can find a study done of the FD of Plymouth, MN and upon scanning the study you find this: "The Plymouth Fire Department experiences the loss of three to four members annually. Difficulties in the recruitment and retention of paid-on-call members has placed the effective delivery of fire protection services at risk due to low staffing levels which impact firefighter safety and overall response time to emergency incidents." Here is the study: I don't know, I have a certain feeling of certainty when I know fire fighters are posted around the city ready to respond. Not sure I would feel too confident hoping the pagers are answered. Why not just eliminate the FD altogether? With $14 million would it not be cheaper to just rebuild any home that burned down? Next I suppose we will be thinking about on call police response too.