Wyandotte Firefighters Want to Set the Record Straight Before Public Safety Millage Is Sought
Voters could be be asked in November to approve a tax hike to fund police and fire operations.
If Wyandotte voters are going to be asked to approve a public safety millage in November to help offset next year’s budget deficit, city firefighters said it’s time that accurate information begin to be disseminated.
Firefighters took exception to some comments that have been made in recent weeks at the Monday meetings of the Citizens’ Budget Advisory Committee.
Mayor Joseph Peterson formed the 12-member committee to brainstorm ideas how the city can balance its estimated $1.8 million shortfall in the 2011-12 budget, which takes effect Oct. 1.
Committee members have been meeting weekly and plan to deliver a full report at the end of the month to the mayor and City Council, who will make the final determination in setting next year’s budget.
During their talks, committee members have focused on the idea of asking voters to approve a millage to balance the budget.
If a millage is put forth before voters, City Administrator Todd Drysdale said he recommends that it be for a specific use, such as senior services or police and fire. He said voters seem to pass those types of millages more often than those that are for general operating purposes.
After hearing that, committee members began discussing the idea of seeking a police and fire operating millage, as those two departments make up nearly half the city’s $18.9 million budget.
During those talks, which have been videotaped and broadcast on Wyandotte Cable’s government access channel, some committee members have pondered cutting employee salaries and what importance a dedicated fire staff truly has when the city only saw four fires last year.
Fire Lt. Dan Wright and Firefighter Jeremy Moline said those comments are misguided and encouraged the committee to look at statistics that show the true story.
In 2010, Moline said, there were 77 fires, of which 27 were structural fires. The others were vehicular, Dumpster and the like. There were 2,342 rescue runs last year, in addition to 545 times when a traditional fire truck responded to a scene.
“This ain’t Detroit,” Moline said. “We’re not on the news every night … (but) we do work. … We have fires in this city.”
During his 10 years on the job, Moline said, the city has seen nine fatal fires, including one fatality a year for the last six years.
The last fatality was March 26 when 52-year-old James Mark Perez died when a fire overtook his garage in the 1800 block of Electric Street.
As for staffing levels, Wright said, the department has 29 employees, including a fire chief and part-time secretary.
In recent years, the department has lost two key positions–deputy chief and fire inspector.
Firefighters earn between $46,100 and $58,400 annually based on seniority. Fire sergeants make $59,700; fire lieutenants, $62,500; and fire captains, $66,900. Fire Chief Michael MacDonald earns $85,500.
Based on other departments, Moline said, the salaries are not excessive.
“We’re not at the top (and) we’re not at the bottom,” he said.
If a millage is sought, Moline said, he just wants voters to have the information they’ll need to make up their minds.
“When you go and sell something, you don’t give all negative facts,” he said. “And the facts have got to be true. … The public is watching.”