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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 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 .

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, , 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 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.”

Mary Washko June 14, 2011 at 01:24 PM
Okay, when your house burns down who will be blamed? I am involved in the fundraiser for our Sister City of Taylor who has laid off so many firefighters and police force. Anyone interested it's being held Friday, June 24th at the U.A.W. Region 1-A Hall----9650 Telegraph Road in Taylor. Time is 4:00-8:00. Adults $12 at the door and kids under 10 $6. Prepaid tickets $10 Adults and $5 Kids. For more information please call 734-374-1531
Kim Piesik June 14, 2011 at 05:42 PM
I watched the meeting on TV and was very impressed with the efforts of the committee to "turn over every rock" and consider a number of resolutions to our city's financial challenges. There was mention made of a public meeting to discuss options prior to putting a millage proposal to vote. I am in full support of our police and fire departments and would much rather accept a millage than stretch their budgets any further. I look forward to being able to express my sentiments in a public forum. Thanks to all involved!
Jason Alley (Editor) June 14, 2011 at 05:54 PM
That meeting is set for 7 p.m. June 22 at the Copeland Center. All are invited.
Kim Piesik June 14, 2011 at 05:58 PM
Thanks, Jason. I knew you'd keep us informed!
Greg Kazmierski June 14, 2011 at 08:21 PM
I believe our Police and Firefighters are worth every penny. "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." But when seeing salaries of municipal employees (not just Wyandotte) in publication or television I always ask the same question. Are those base wages or do they include overtime? As it appears these are meager wages for the jobs they do. I would love to see their gross annual pay, including overtime, before making decisions on approving an operating millage for Fire/Police. Like I said, they deserve to be paid, but what exactly is their "true" income?
Jason Alley (Editor) June 14, 2011 at 08:27 PM
Hey, Greg. I'm not sure if this is exactly what you're looking for, but I can tell you that there is an additional $100,000 allocated each year for overtime in the Fire Department. City Administrator Todd Drysdale has said in the past that no city department has gone over their budget allotment for overtime. So, if you factor an additional $100,000 in over 27 firefighting positions, that might get you a bit closer to the maximum possible earnings, assuming all $100,000 is used each year.
Greg Kazmierski June 15, 2011 at 12:53 PM
Wow! So those are pretty "true" figures. They all deserve raises!!
Curtis Lowe August 02, 2011 at 01:28 PM
I agree. I know the lowest cop on the force gets something like close to $70K after overtime at the end of the year. That's nuts. The police and fireman have learned how to milk the OT system and nobody will say anything because those are the two jobs that scare the public into fearing that without them their houses will burn, they will die, and bad guys will rob and rape them. For some reason people think that more cops equal less crime. It's just not true.
Curtis Lowe August 02, 2011 at 01:29 PM
I have a hard time believing that <$100,000 was paid in OT in the fire department in a year. Where did your numbers come from?
Jason Alley (Editor) August 02, 2011 at 01:32 PM
The numbers are from the city's budget, Curtis. Since this story was published, the fire chief has addressed more specific overtime figures. You can read that story here: http://patch.com/A-k6Vh

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