Six Municipalities Consider Joining Fire Departments

By: Rachel Thomas Email
By: Rachel Thomas Email

Sharing services is one way for local governments to cut costs in a time of tiny budgets. Now six municipalities are coming together to consider a regional fire service.

"I think there is general agreement with the fire chiefs and municipal administrators that this does make some sense," said Mayor Victor Loomis of East Lansing.

The cities of Lansing and East Lansing and four townships including Lansing, Delta, Delhi, and Meridian have been talking for several months with their fire chiefs and firefighter unions about the plan.

"There should very well be cuts and closures of fire stations, but we believe if done properly, it could be done in a positive way to still maintain the level of service people expect," said Chief Tom Cochran of Lansing Fire Dept.

All six entities are generally supportive of the plan. Now they are deciding whether to commit to asking the Michigan Municipal League to conduct a study showing the most efficient way to consolidate this many departments.

"This is a great example of full-time unionized departments coming together and that hasn't happened before. So I really think that's an unprecedented move. We can serve as a resource for various information and data---anything we need from that aspect, we can help them with," said Samantha Harkins of the Michigan Municipal League.

City leaders, fire chiefs, and union leaders have all been a part of the disscussion table, but many anticipate not all will find the study agreeable.

"There is going to be a lot of angst from tax payers and citizens as to 'we don't want to lose our fire department," said Cochran.

The municipal league says the biggest challenge will be getting unions to agree to renegotiate compensation contracts to ensure consolidation actually saves money.

"At the end of the day, we meet in the middle---so everyone is changed a little bit. The idea is to make sure there is a cost savings,"said Harkins.

Despite the many challenges to come, all parties agree it is an option they want to consider.

"The point is it's going to be a change,and people struggle with change. But these are times like we've never seen. Change is going to come and we need to be a part of it," said Cochran.

All six municipalities will decide in the next three weeks if they want to officially participate. The group plans to submit a formal request for partial funding and consulting services to the Michigan Municipal League within a month.


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