Ypsilanti Citizen News ]]>

City Council approves all mayor's re-appointments
By Dan DuChene
Jun. 16, 2010   ·   3:42 a.m.

Jone Coleman, president of downtown business LookInTheAttic, shares his thoughts with City Council about the discussion and procedure taken to pass mayoral re-appointments, which he was being considered for the Downtown Development Authority.

After much procedure, Ypsilanti City Council approved six mayoral re-appointments to city boards and committees Tuesday, including the two postponed from earlier...read more

Council postpones two reappointments
By Mark Tower
Jun. 4, 2010   ·   4:57 p.m.

Two of Ypsilanti's volunteer board members were not reappointed on schedule Tuesday night, owing to a 4-2 vote by City Council to delay the appointments until...read more

Downtown properties to be rehabilitated
By Mark Tower
Jun. 4, 2010   ·   10:40 a.m.

The three properties located at 120, 122 and 124 West Michigan Avenue in downtown Ypsilanti will soon be rebuilt into commercial and office space and loft apartments, thanks to a planned $1.7 million investment by developers.

Three recently-vacated properties in downtown Ypsilanti, two of them condemned, will soon be renovated owing to recent purchase by a local development company and...read more

Ypsilanti Township authorizes litigation against Liberty Square
By Mark Tower
May. 28, 2010   ·   6:53 p.m.

Many of the homes in the Liberty Square complex on Grove Street in Ypsilanti Township are already boarded and ready for foreclosure sale. All 151 units, some of which are still occupied, will be condemned Tuesday, Ypsilanti Township has resolved.

Residents living in the Liberty Square complex of townhouses will see a sticker appear on their homes Tuesday, when the Ypsilanti Township Building Department places...read more

Ford plant granted tax exemption by township
By Mark Tower
May. 24, 2010   ·   5:44 p.m.

Ford Motor Company's Rawsonville Plan, located at the intersection of Textile and Bridge Roads in Ypsilanti Township, will soon be the new home for production of Ford's Electric Focus batteries, formerly produced in Mexico.

New machines and equipment will soon be wheeled into Ford's Rawsonville Plant in Ypsilanti Township as it begins manufacturing a line of batteries for the new global...read more

Ypsilanti Township offers firefighters buyout


Minimum staffing reduced from eight to six to save money

By Mark Tower
May. 7, 2010    ·    2:21 p.m.

Eight firefighters are expected to retire early from Ypsilanti Township's fire department, Chief Eric Copeland said, after township trustees approved a buyout plan and minimum staff reduction at a special board meeting called Wednesday night.

The minimum staffing level at any given time was previously set at eight firefighters, and trustees Wednesday approved a reduction to six firefighters, in an attempt to help the department save money and to stop regularly drawing from its fund balance.

Under the new buyout offer, firefighters reaching 23 years of service by December 31, 2011, will be allowed to retire with the full pension they would receive after 25 years. Also, firefighters who don't reach 23 years by that date will be allowed to purchase two years beyond four years paid for by the township.

Copeland said his goal is to reduce expenditures in his department by $1 million this year, and he expects the buyout offer and resulting retirements will result in a yearly savings of about $576,000.

“This is a major step toward negotiating that $1 million savings,” he said. “It will help me maintain the fund balance to prepare for capital expenditures.”

Upcoming necessary expenditures, Copeland said, would likely include replacing two 11-year-old vehicles at the busiest station sometime in the next five years.

The township's fire department reduced it's budget by $662,000 from 2009 to 2010, Copeland said, and still needed to draw $865,000 from the fire fund in 2010. This appropriation is nearly double the $515,000 appropriated from the fund in 2009.

If this were to continue, Copeland said the fire fund would be completely depleted by 2012, and 2012 projected revenues would support about 25 firefighters. Currently, the department has 34 firefighters and eight retirements would lower this total staffing level to 26.

The buyout proposal and staff reduction, brought forward by the local union, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1830, was recommended by Copeland, but sparked spirited discussion at Wednesday's meeting. Trustees Stan Eldridge and Mike Martin voted against the recommendation, while all other trustees voted yes.

Despite a recommendation from the fire chief, Martin and Eldridge both voiced their concern about endangering both firefighters and residents by reducing staffing and about spending township money to help veteran firefighters retire early.

“I would hate to see a firefighter who was injured or worse because of this agreement,” Eldridge said.

Martin asked Copeland if he thought six-person staffing was adequate or understaffed.

“Yes, I believe that we would be understaffed for structural firefighting at the six-person minimum,” Copeland said.

The fire chief said for large structure fires they already rely on mutual aid agreements with neighboring fire departments and that would continue with the lower minimum. He also said the six minimum was the best way to keep all three stations in the township open, since they are required to have two people in each vehicle.

Township Supervisor Brenda Stumbo said the change was a good move to help stabilize township funds with decreasing revenues from property taxes. She is willing to trust the fire chief, she said, that the staffing reduction would not endanger the lives of firefighters or residents in the township.

“If this fire chief says he can do this safely, I will take him at his word,” Stumbo said. “He is the expert.”

Eldridge also raised a concern about the potential for insurance rates going up for individuals and businesses in the township when the Insurance Services Office (ISO) next rates the township's firefighting capabilities.

Copeland said staffing levels do impact the ISO rating, and the organization does not consider mutual aid agreements when setting the ratings, which insurance rates are based on.

Martin said he was also concerned that giving firefighters the buyout opportunity may trigger other township employee unions to ask for the same thing. He also pointed out that the buyout plan alone would not create a balanced budget for the department, and wanted firefighters to realize that there may still be layoffs.

Eldridge suggested that avenues other than reducing staff be used to help the fire department stay financially viable. He asked why a property tax millage had not been proposed to solve the problem.

“If we are looking at all available options, why have we not done that; leaving it up to the voters to decide,” Eldridge said.

Copeland said he was confident that he could reduce expenditures by $1 million through the buyout and minimum staff reduction, and through a new contract with the union, for which he expects collective bargaining to begin on soon.

“I want to use a millage increase if needed as a last alternative in the future,” he said. “I believe with all my heart that we can do this and I believe this is the right thing to do for the township and the residents.”

Martin suggested funding the fire department with the township's general fund balance until after the collective bargaining agreement has been drafted and the department would better know how much money it will be saving.

“We don't really know what the total savings will be until the end of the collective bargaining process,” Martin said. “Can't we give funds from the township's fund balance to the fire fund until that is known?”

The new minimum staffing level of six will take immediate effect, though Copeland said most of the time eight or nine firefighters will be on duty for a shift, reaching the six-person staffing level only about 15 percent of the time.

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