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Posted on Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Ypsilanti fire chief announces retirement as department denied $1.3M SAFER grant

By Katrease Stafford


Ypsilanti firefighter Ken Hobbs carries medical equipment out of a home during a call for a diabetic emergency. file photo

The Ypsilanti Fire Department was denied its request for a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and some city officials have expressed concern regarding the possible effects.

Fire Chief Jon Ichesco, who said Monday he plans to retire this year, requested the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant earlier this year that would have allowed him to retain his staff and possibly hire up to seven more employees.

Ichesco said the request was denied because the department had not actually laid anyone off. The city eliminated firefighter positions through attrition and in June, the Ypsilanti City Council unanimously approved city budgets through fiscal year 2015 that will prevent staff layoffs.


Jon Ichesco

Tom Perkins | For

"That dropped us to a lower rating," Ichesco said. "I re-applied for the 2012 round and we're still in the running."

Ichesco said not receiving one of the grants is "not good" for the department or city.

"We've taken one hit after another," he said. "We needed that grant. We had an end game for it. It would have bridged us through for two years and bring people in for lower benefits packages."

Ichesco submitted his letter of intent to retire Sept. 24 and said he plans to retire by Dec. 31.

Mayor Paul Schreiber said City Manager Ralph Lange will likely appoint the next fire chief.

"Chief Ichesco has been in the deferment retirement program so it's not a surprise, but something we have to prepare for," Schreiber said.

Schreiber said at this moment he doesn't know who would replace Ichesco.

"It's really Mr. Lange’s call," Schreiber said. "I'm sure he’s going to take council’s wishes into account. I think he will make the right call and will certainly offer my thoughts."

While Ichesco isn't entirely sure of what direction the department will go when he retires, he is certain city council moving forward will have some tough decisions to make.

"We probably need to move in other directions now and the other directions aren't good," Ichesco said said.

Schreiber said the city will most likely have to restructure and Lange is currently in the process of doing so. At a recent meeting, Lange unveiled he was working on a five-year turnaround plan to move the city out of the red.

"I think we’re still going to be looking at some type of reorganziaiton in the city in order to reduce expenses and continue to deliver services," Schreiber said.

When asked whether layoffs will occur, Schreiber said it's too early to tell.


Fire Captain Michelle Stanbury laughs while eating dinner with other firefighters. file photo

"I can't say at this time," he said. "We've had a number of people retire in the last couple of years. Obviously when that happens, you have to recalibrate and figure out how to restructure. I wouldn’t say that’s not going to happen but I wouldn’t rule it out either."

However, Council Member Brian Robb noted that the budgets approved in June did not factor in the SAFER grant, so any speculation of job loss could be premature.

"Since we passed that budget, three people have announced their intention to retire by Jan. 4," Robb said. "We'll save money if we decide not to replace them. ... We'll have to see how things will shake out."

Schreiber said it can be problematic to rely on grants, which is why the city sought to implement an income tax and Water Street debt millage. Voters rejected the two revenue-generating proposals in May.

"We have to figure out how to deliver services as best as we can and figure out how to have a balanced budget," he said. "The good news is we have something like $7 million in reserves. If you rely on grants, the grant can come and go. Sometimes it just puts off the inevitable. It's not the end of the world that we didn't get the grant."

Council Member Michael Bodary said not receiving the grant is disappointing for the city. Bodary, who did not seek re-election in the August primary, said that going forward, council will need to figure out how to maintain services for residents. Yet, Bodary said he does not foresee any layoffs in the next six months.

"I'm worried for the future, not the immediate but in a year or so," Bodary said. "It just means that the time when we run out of funding has been moved up a little closer. We knew within two years that the city would be out of fund balance. We had a nest egg that we’ve been maintaining but it started being used for other issues. That just can't keep up and we don’t have any other funding sources."

Ypsilanti must pay $30 million on its Water Street bond debt and continue to make payments through 2031. Its annual payments will grow to $1.7 million annually by 2015, and the city currently has $2.6 million set aside to pay down the debt.

Early projections show the city is facing a possible $4 million deficit for fiscal year 2016 and $4.6 million in 2017.

Bodary said he believes the city will do everything it can to preserve the fire department.

"A lot of people are trying very hard to find solutions," he said. "We’re not out of time yet but we’ve really got to dig in to find enough cost cutting solutions to maintain the coverage. I can't think of a single thing a city accomplishes or strives for more than the protection of its citizens."

Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for her at or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.



Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

Oh yes and the city,county,village police departments,as well as the MSP all have a mutual aid agreement and it to seems to work out well.


Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 5:06 p.m.

if u don't have all the money u need,and today not many FD's and PD,s do it only makes sense to combine resources with other nearby communities(cities,townships,county). where i live when there is a fire it's not at all uncommon to have 3 or more departments listed as having been unseen.It seems to b working out WELL.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 4:28 a.m.

Hey Ypsi City: "Can we all get along?" Just wondering . . .


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 2:09 a.m.

Check with the legal beagles. Unless the city wants to do a "Flint," BK is the Only solution. Not as bad as it may sound to the New Englanders. The rest of us are familiar with BK. There Is a Life after BK. It's one thing to be a snob when you are rich and prosperous (as the city once was 50+ yrs ago); it is quite the opposite to play the snob when you have a Fire Dept staggering toward the departments you see in 3d World TV news reports. Send your pack of legal beagles over to Federal BK Court in Ann Arbor and Just Do It! P.S. Doing a "Flint" is not possible; Yspi does not have the firepower in the Legislature and the Detroit allies that Flint has. Dig?

Fat Bill

Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 10:08 p.m.

It is time to quit delaying the inevitable. File Chapter 9, disincorporate, and Boom, you are all one big township instead of a decaying city hemmed in by a Charter-protected donut. Painful in the beginning, but one big Ypsilanti Township would be more resilient than what we have now...

greg, too

Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 10:30 p.m.

Brilliant plan except for that you can't do it. The Water St. debt, which is what is choking the city, will follow them, no matter what they do. They need to buck up, play nice with the townships instead of thumbing their nose at them, and try and coax them into joining the city. That is the only way it could work...but, as a previous poster said, that will never happen. I would imagine you should have another millage on the ballot next year to try and pay for this.


Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 9:42 p.m.

Too bad the fire department did not get the grant!


Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 5:16 p.m.

It is kind of strange to see an Ypsi Twp Fire Truck speeding west on Michigan Ave, right past the Ypsi City Fire Barn! Heading for Twp homes just outside NE Ypsi City. Wonder how many city residents know this? Before Hank Ford built the bomber plant, Ypsi City was populated by the descendants of New Englanders. The inability of these two municipalities to get it together goes back to the blatant prejudice displayed toward the people from the South that came to this area to build bombers to win the war. Now, 70 years later, Ypsi City still cannot get it together. Rodney King said it best: "Can we all get along?"


Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

VOTE NO ON PROPOSAL 2 (Unions for public worker) Unions do not belong in the public sector. You see how the teacher unions screwed taxpayers for years. Retirement after 25 years of service Tenure makes it impossible to get a bad teacher out. Health insurance with no deductibles or contribution for years And the list goes on and on. No enough room to talk about other public workers unions.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 4:09 p.m.

The only reason teachers received these enormous benefits is because of there strong union and a very weak democratic gov. Public unions can hold student and taxpayers hostage until they get what they want. This is why teacher STILL have the option to retire after 25 years. This is not a norm in the private workforce WHY should it be in the public workforce. Try firing a teacher with tenure. Almost impossible.

Boo Radley

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

As jmcmurray points out, your statements about Prop.2 are false. Proposal 2 will not GIVE public workers any higher benefits, better pensions, better and cheaper healthcare or any other benefit. Proposal 2 only seeks to guarantee public workers the right to bargain with their employer and negotiate those benefits. During the economic downturn, it has been common for almost all public sector unions to give concessions on their pay, retirements and health care. Like the ads about the new bridge to Canada, the ridiculously false ads against Proposal 2 should be removed from the media.


Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 8:23 p.m.

All we have to do is vote for the same group that is in power now in DC. This will then continue our conversion into a socialistic society. Even Hugo Chavez complimented our current leadership.


Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 6:53 p.m.

There is a very straightforward rationale for voting against Proposal 2, and it has absolutely nothing to do with one's support of unions or not. Proposal 2 is, in essence, asking you to vote on the proposal that you'll never be able to vote on unionization issues again. That means that any law, supported by elected officials in our representative democracy, which impedes/infringes/retards/restricts collective bargaining, will be "de facto" illegal. Put simply, aside from another constitutional amendment, you will never, ever have the opportunity to vote on collective bargaining. Ever. In any way. Is that what Michigan needs? Things change - the economy, society, etc. Why would we - the citizens of this state - ever vote to *restrict* our choice in the future? I'm sure we can all agree that choice is one of the most important freedoms we all have. To vote to eliminate it stands as an affront to a democratic society.


Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 5:15 p.m.

Except, all of what you just said is false. The public unions are in place to protect public workers from people like you, who feel that teachers' pensions are the true cause of our economic woes, and not the robbing of the retirement and school aid funds.


Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

Grants and loans should not be used to fund recurring operating expenses. If the SAFER grant had been (is to be) granted, It should be used for capital investment - not hiring staff.


Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 9:57 p.m.

"Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response" is specifically for hiring or rehiring laid off staff.

Nancy Corfman

Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 1:50 p.m.

I totally agree with Arbuckle! The City should take a lesson from Ypsilanti Township. Yes, there are politics played everywhere, however, over the period of nearly 7 years that I have lived in the Township, it was governed by a "team" of players...not by selfish individuals who were out for individual gain. I will be moving to the City of Ypsilanti and have made the decision to do so based solely on personal reasons, however, now knowing it might be a possibility that the fire department could face even more cutbacks scares the devil out of me! At least I will have a fire hydrant directly in front of my house and if need be I'll open it myself if my house or one of my neighbors' houses (heaven forbid) catces on fire.


Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

I have thought for years that it would make a lot of sense to form an "Ypsilanti Area Fire Department" by combining the Ypsilanti City, Ypsilanti Township, and Superior Township FIre Departments. Finances, equipment, and personnel could be shared and the burden of running an entire department wouldn't have to fall on any one city or township. It'll never happen for political reasons, but Chelsea, Dexter, Milan, and Saline already do this with their cities and surrounding townships.


Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 1:25 p.m.

When Chief Ichesko retires we need to follow the Pittsfield Twp. model and have a Director of Public Safety who would act as Police Chief and Fire Chief. Then, senior command staff from each department would act as the Supervisors over Police and Fire.

Pete Murdock

Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

The City has adjusted our application and reapplied for the 2012 round of SAFER grants.


Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 1:01 p.m.

How about combining the Chief job with Ann Arbor? Who needs another Chief? Let's use these opportunities to get "smarter" so there is more $$ for the field guys, and less waste for adiministrators.

greg, too

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 : 1:23 a.m.

One major problem. Why would Ann Arbor ever think of doing this? Plus, there is a township that separates the cities, so it would make sense to ally with them, then ponder with a2.


Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 2:26 p.m.

I do however like the idea of more money to put boots on the ground rather than more administration.


Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 2:06 p.m.

Why would this make sense? I could see this case if these two cities were connected geographically, but they are not. Not even close. What would make better sense is for the Ypsilanti Twp and City of Ypsilanti to combine services seeing as how the city is compleatly surrounded by the township. I think people fail to realize that in order for the City of Ann Arbor to get to the City of Ypsilanti they have to drive through BOTH Pittsfield Twp. and Ypsilanti Twp. Not to mention the fact that Ann Arbor is considering closing stations right know. They need to clean up their own mess before they take on somebody elses.


Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 1 p.m.

Our federal government has no money. Our cities are out of money. As city leaders, you cannot eliminate the correct level of basic services. Thus, you must make the right decisions to lower costs. It really is a simple process that private companies have learned.


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 7:09 a.m.

Goober has a point.......prior negotiated salaries anbd benefits are unsustainable without further tax increases on an already struggling population. Is that fair to maintain such a system? Tom Todd has a point....but consumers can choose NOT to give them their money and seek out less expensive options. Public employee unions jprovide no such options and now want to amend the Michigan constitution to override any legislation designed to curb labor expenses or reductions. That kind of makes it worse for the rest of us, doesn't it? Yeah, it's a real problem and the only solution always seems to be "more money is needed". I'd like to see more flexibility, more compromise, and more versatility....much more.

Tom Todd

Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 11:27 p.m.

private companies raise prices, where have you been?


Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 5:25 p.m.

to ypsi 1 Show me the books and budget in sufficient detail so I can see each and every line entry for positions, expenses, etc. and I'll bet I can find non-core expenses that can be reduced or eliminated. Guaranteed!

ypsi 1

Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 4:20 p.m.

Goober - How would you recommend getting $ to pay these people? Print it up in the basement? There is hardly anyone anymore working at city hall. Stomping your foot will not make people's paychecks: nothing left to cut except core services.


Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 12:46 p.m.

If we lost that portion of protection like Pontiac did, the city will be in HUGE trouble. We have way too many elder citizens around here and plus we EMU that they have to cover. I think it's time (if not already being done), that we send Eastern a bill to help support the fire department. If a fire breaks out there, who responds to it? The YFD does. If one of the college kids gets sick, who responds? The YFD does. The college owns enough property around here to help support the YFD. and if they already do, see if they can't raise it up like they do the property taxes and the water bills and the electric bills. I just have a bad feeling we wil end up without a fire department and will have to rely on neighboring communities to cover us. Wait a minute. Does the Mayor, City Council and the City Manage get paid to do their job? If so then maybe they need to take pay cuts like everybody else has done that works for the city. If the YFD does end up closing, watch how quickly the residents start leaving because we don't have the proper protection. Why not think about keeping the YFD staff we have now and train volunteers to help out if the department needs more people at a fire scene. The trucks are siting there, why not use them?

greg, too

Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 10:26 p.m.

Yeah man, make eastern pay there share. It's not like they employ a good deal of the people in Ypsi and the township, or attract people to the neighborhoods around to buy houses, or bring in 18-20k students a day, or generally make a dying city seem alive. I mean, I'm sure the people of the city, without the extra 17k people, could keep all of the niche eateries and shops and bars problem.. Sheesh, make them do their part. This city would be dead without EMU.

City Confidential

Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 7:26 p.m.

Yeah, and that $37,000 is for ALL OF THEM COMBINED, not each. The Mayor & City Council are basically volunteers. The City Manager does get a salary, but I fail to see your point. You obviously know nothing about the city government, but it sure does feel good to say "Off with their heads!" doesn't it?

ypsi 1

Tue, Oct 9, 2012 : 3:13 p.m.

? "Wait a minute. Does the Mayor, City Council and the City Manager get paid to do their job? If so then maybe they need to take pay cuts like everybody else has done that works for the city." Sometimes people should think before they type. If you took all the pay council makes (and have not voted themselves a raise in 6 years, but did vote a 5% cut) and cut it further it would not make a drop in the bucket. Wake up! Fire has a 3 million budget and council makes $37,000 or so... You do a lot of fuzzy math.