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Posted on Sun, Jan 13, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Ypsilanti declines to explore fire collaboration with Ypsilanti Township

By Tom Perkins

Would a collaboration between the City of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township’s fire departments make sense?

Informal talks took place over recent weeks toward that goal, officials confirmed, but they've stopped.

Ypsilanti's city manager says the city isn't interested in exploring the concept - which may come with a potential savings of more than $500,000 - and added that it won't be brought up before City Council.

After the Ypsilanti Township Board of Trustees unanimously approved a motion to explore ways to collaborate and save money with the city at its Oct. 22 meeting, Fire Chief Eric Copeland was directed to explore how the two departments could work together.

“I saw it as a win-win for both communities,” he said

The city has a strained budget and the township, which nearly encircles the city, would benefit from more manpower and the use of Ypsilanti’s ladder truck and other equipment.


The Ypsilanti Fire Department

Tom Perkins | For

The discussions among politicians and union members occurred informally over the last month, and Copeland said he met with Ypsilanti City Manager Ralph Lange to propose an arrangement similar to an authority in which the township would absorb the city’s department. The city would then contract for fire services from the township.

Lange told he wasn’t interested because he is pursuing the creation of a hybrid model for the police and fire department. The hybrid model would have separate police and fire departments with an "adequate" number of firefighters to respond to daily service demands.

This would be coupled with a larger police department that would have a certain number of cross-trained officers that have been trained and equipped to respond to major fire incidents whenever the fire department is busy or on another run. However, no official plan or cost-savings estimate has been offered yet.

Lange said he thought estimating $500,000 in savings from a partnership between the township and city was premature because the city is still negotiating with its fire union and labor costs are unknown.

Lange said he didn't discuss the proposal with council and that the city is more interested in retaining control of core services like police and fire. But Lange said partnering with Ypsilanti Township would be a consideration if the hybrid model doesn't pan out.

Copeland said he and Lange agreed to work in other areas where there is possibility for collaboration, such as code enforcement.

The estimated $500,000 is a township figure from a draft of the plan, Copeland said. He said those savings would be found in reducing the operational costs, reducing staffing, reducing administrative costs, reducing overtime and reducing legacy costs.

Copeland said the township would have benefited because the City of Ypsilanti has a ladder truck and is strategically located. It would have also improved service for residents in both municipalities because nine firefighters would show up right away on each call instead of after the second or third alarm.

City firefighters would have largely remained working at the city station, though they would have covered calls in the township, as township firefighters would immediately respond to calls in the city.

The township responds to an average of 11 calls per day while the city responds to six, Copeland said. The township has a department of 27 firefighters and a budget of about $5 million. Ypsilanti has a department of 16.

In addition to the meeting between Lange and Copeland, Ypsilanti Township Trustee Stan Eldridge and Ypsilanti City Council Member Brian Robb met with union leaders from both departments and a regional union leader from the Wayne-Westland Fire Department to discuss the idea.

Eldridge said it received a positive response from those at the meeting, and he said he left expecting that there would at least be a series of conversations to explore the idea further. He said he was surprised Lange wasn’t interested.

“I think everyone was willing to look at collaborating on services, but the city manager apparently made the decision he doesn’t want to do that,” Eldridge said. He added that the township would be happy to further discuss the concept.

Ken Hobbs, the City of Ypsilanti’s fire union leader, said he is receptive to the idea and favors it over merging the city’s fire and police departments. He said it makes more sense to work with the township now the city doesn’t have a chief or fire marshal, and he said it would help the city maintain the same level of service.

A merger into a public safety department would be costly in the long run and reduce fire protection, Hobbs contended.

“An alternative to a public safety department that would provide a better service and save money in the long run; the better option would be to work with the township,” Hobbs said.

The City of Wayne and City of Westland recently merged their two fire departments. Hobbs said they did so through small steps. He said it was a several year process that started with sharing a chief, then dealing with contracts and eventually combining each operation.

Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber said he had heard some talk about the idea but hadn’t seen anything in writing. He said he had not heard any discussion about how much such a proposal could save the city, but said it would be a complex undertaking.

Schreiber said he was confident Lange would bring the idea to council if it was a good idea.

“If it doesn’t save us money and it's not a good option, then he’s not going to bring it to council,” Schreiber said. “He has done a good job bringing ideas to council that are workable.”

Lange has also met with Ann Arbor City Manager Steve Powers to discuss a possible collaboration between the two departments. Lange said working with Ann Arbor is another alternative to the public safety department. Ann Arbor is also discussing a merger with Ann Arbor Township.

But Hobbs and Robb both said working with Ypsilanti Township makes more sense because Ann Arbor firefighters would have to drive through Ypsilanti Township to get to Ypsilanti.

"We could partner with the City of Okemos if we wanted," Robb said. "It only makes sense to do this with your neighbors."



Sun, Jan 27, 2013 : 11:46 p.m.

Ypsi City officials will only consider a merger if they call all the shots and the Township pays a disproportionate amount of costs. Last thing the people in the Township need is to merge ANY service with a city going bankrupt.


Mon, Jan 14, 2013 : 7 a.m.

History of Ypsi is New Englander snobs vs H.B. "Interlopers, goes back more than a half-century. Settled by New Englanders. Before Pearl Harbor, Ypsi City was more prosperous than Ann Arbor. "Day of Infamy" occurs and FDR asks Hank Ford for big aircraft to engage in High Altitude Daylight Precision Bombardment. Police vs Firefighters. "Police work" is "selling" traffic tickets: "Radar showed you at 55MPH in 35MPH speed zone. Here is ticket for 45 in a 35." Citizen says "Thank You" for $100+ ticket. Occasionally patrol officer is dispatched to Briarwood for shop-lifting complaint. True, other Ten Percent of police work is homicide, bank robberies and drug traffic. Ann Arbor, Ypsi and Sheriff's Dept have smart dicks, but, for the most part, "selling" traffic tickets are what coppers are trained to do. Cops "interact" with citizens; Firefighters interact with Fires. Perhaps you have never witnessed a Fire!!! Fires are Awesome!!! Firefighters are Different than cops. 1. Building inspection to prevent fires. 2. Primary Job is not to put out fires; Primary Job is to Save Lives. Get people O-U-T of burning buildings ("Grab onto me! Forget about your damn cat."). 3. Extinguish fires. Firefighters are Strong, Kick-Butt workers get to the scene and run their butts into Danger! Cops are not!!! Firefighters engage in Happening danger; Cops "respond" to events that already happened. Any Public Administration trained government employee who "noodles" that cops can be trained as fungible to firefighters has his head up his butt!!! Can he grab his butt with both hands? I sincerely doubt it. Knuckle Heads to be sent back to "Reality" college. Do Not Mess with Firefighters; Kiss-Up to Charter Township of Ypsilanti and Fix your Real Problem!!! (More's the pity if you don't).

Martin Church

Mon, Jan 14, 2013 : 1 a.m.

Why do we keep electing stupid people who can not even think about changing things beside saying we need a change. We need action NOW not later. And that includes the merger of our fire department and police department in to a unified public safety system with the rest in our region. That does not mean the police become fire fighters or the fire fighters become police but that Ypsilanti and Augusta and maybe even Pittsfield consolidate resources and become a regional system that will protect our citizens Instead we are at fault for the situation we are in because we have failed to hold the elective representative's accountable for their actions. Perhaps it is time for an EFM for Ypsilanti. Fire the Manager and recall the council.


Sun, Jan 13, 2013 : 9:48 p.m.

> Schreiber said he was confident Lange would bring the idea to council if it was a good idea. The previous city manager was an idiot. Why such confidence in this one?


Sun, Jan 13, 2013 : 9:46 p.m.

I guess Ypsilanti leadership has no intent of pursuing any and all avenues of cost reduction. Maybe their egos are in the way. The Ypsilanti voters lose out again. Go figure!


Sun, Jan 13, 2013 : 7:54 p.m.

I am not smart about politics so this may sound stupid. Who hires the City Manager? Is he appointed by the Mayor or is it the City Council that hires him? Once I get that answer, then I can run my mouth because either way, the City Manager is being an idiot. Our Fire Department is already so small, if we did have a major fire, a second alarm would put out, which only takes a few seconds right? Well that few seconds could mean the difference between life and death. From what I have seen, the city manager does not want to save the city money. To me he just wants it to die out and be able to pad his pockets with the tax payers money. If something ever happened to my house or my body because the Fire or the Police Department couldn't get to either one fast enough because of the cuts, I know where the first papers would be served for sure. Get rid of the City Manager position all together, we can't afford him because he is taking away our protection. As people have said in the past, if the City had put a FIRE mileage on the ballot, I bet it would have passed and the Department would be staffed properly. But now we are down to what, 4 fire personnel per shift. Yea I know 2 in and 2 out. There's your 4. Problem with that is, the driver of the rig (the engineer) should be staying with the truck to make sure all is running well on the truck. There are so many benefits for the City and the Township to merge the 2 departments. I live in the city but the station that Twp Engine 14-3 is at on Hewitt is much closer to me that the city station. The Township could get to the call quicker what ever it may be. Between the 3 stations that the Township has and the 1 station the city has, they are all placed perfectly for complete coverage. Maybe I should get into the politics a little more. I'd bet just some random person off the street could do a better job that the manager we have now. Is he related to the Mayor in any way?

Katrease Stafford

Sun, Jan 13, 2013 : 8:11 p.m.

Ron, The city council appoints the city manager and also approves his contract. Here's a story I did in May about it:


Sun, Jan 13, 2013 : 4:31 p.m.

Ann Arbor?///// why would that even be a consideration?.. FGS,, city get over your " thing" with the township.. GROW_ UP.. suck it up. and do something that makes sense to everyone but this city board.


Sun, Jan 13, 2013 : 4:21 p.m.

"Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber said he had heard some talk about the idea but hadn't seen anything in writing. " Does anyone find it alarming that every time an article comes out about a major topic in Ypsi, from the merging of services to the housing authority leadership, that the mayor has little or no knowledge of what is going on? Either he is playing coy and not wanting to go on record with an opinion or he honestly doesn't know what is going on. "Schreiber said he was confident Lange would bring the idea to council if it was a good idea." Terrifying reply from the mayor.


Sun, Jan 13, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.

I'd rather have the City's Fired Department merge with that of the Township. It's better to have dedicated, professional firefighters than hybrids. There's more to fighting fires than squirting water on the flames. One can't be proficient at both crime fighting and fire fighting.


Sun, Jan 13, 2013 : 1:56 p.m.

So many egos, so little progress. Hey Lange, how much does an A2 firefighter make, compared to an Ypsi township firefighter? Does that figure into your cost? By the way, why do we have a city manager? What does the mayor do? This state (area) has so many layers of government, it is no wonder businesses have flown the coup. You have to kiss so many ring fingers, that your lips dry out! Lange, do what's right!


Sun, Jan 13, 2013 : 4:17 p.m.

The Mayor goes to parades and waves. Tells friends, co-workers and relatives that he is Mayor. Same in ALL citys.

Basic Bob

Sun, Jan 13, 2013 : 1:22 p.m.

It would make even more sense to merge the city and township, but there's too many personalities for that to be considered.


Sun, Jan 13, 2013 : 4:59 p.m.

If there was a merger? Our taxes would go up and nothing would get done. No way on earth would I let that happen. We have a great township and I for one do not want to see it go down with the rats.


Sun, Jan 13, 2013 : 12:45 p.m.

Insanity = doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Ypsi City has refused to work with Ypsi Township for the past 68 years that I've been around. Why are there not any official talks about the merger...rather than the "unofficial" chats? And the City continues to fade away toward bankruptcy......but when offered a plan, the manager won't even take it to council. The mayor says that if it was a good idea, the manager would take it to council. Okay, perhaps it should be DISCUSSED to see if it truly can BECOME a good idea. How about council working with the township board to find a good compromise that is a WIN-WIN ? I wish I could draw a cartoon would be of the City of Ypsilanti ship sinking....the captain being thrown a life preserver by the captain of The Township of Ypsilanti ship.....but refusing to grab a hold. Remember this when TPTB start crying about the EFM coming in to take over the City.....and gutting public services.


Sun, Jan 13, 2013 : 4:18 p.m.

Spot on. The city has a possible option to save themselves half a mil and they won't do it because of the avarice of the new city manager, a city manager who doesn't even live in the city and has used such fuzzy math over the past few months that he has even snowballed himself.


Sun, Jan 13, 2013 : 4:07 p.m.

Exact right, Fly. And he is saying it as he goes underwater for the 3rd time.


Sun, Jan 13, 2013 : 1:13 p.m.

The Ypsi Captain is saying, "Not on my watch!"