Fire Department to explore adding more personnel

By: Thomas Franz | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published June 15, 2016

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Based on the recent findings of a committee to explore staffing needs for the Macomb Township Fire Department, additional personnel may be coming to the department soon.

The Board of Trustees appointed a five-person committee during a May 25 meeting to review the department’s staffing needs.

On June 8, Fire Chief Robert Phillips provided the results of the committee’s discussions to the board.

“The committee’s services were motivated by the recent decline in the number of available personnel, along with the continued growth of Macomb Township as reflected in the recent census statistics,” Phillips said to the board.

Phillips pointed out multiple reasons for why current staffing levels may no longer be adequate. Phillips said that an improving economy has negatively impacted the availability of on-call firefighters, due to the demands of their full-time jobs.

“Based upon trending population growth and new structure development, the committee agrees that now is the appropriate and responsible time to begin the process of hiring additional firefighters on a full-time basis in conjunction with encouraging paid on-call and auxiliary firefighters to fill more hours,” Phillips said.

The committee’s members were Phillips, township legal counsel Albert Addis, Ray Ahonen —  a former fire chief in Macomb Township and West Bloomfield — township Treasurer Karen Goodhue and James Burke, who is the director of the Department of Public Safety for Harper Woods.

“The committee’s goal is to propose a plan that would enable the Fire Department to consistently utilize appropriate staffing at stations,” Phillips said.

To accomplish that goal, Phillips said that full-time, non-officer firefighter positions should be created, along with the hiring of an appropriate number of part-time dispatchers.

Another aim is to initiate conversations and negotiations with the paid on-call and auxiliary firefighters union, with the goal of motivating its members to fulfill an increased number of hours.

“It’s imperative to the efficient operation of the Fire Department that this plan be recognized as being flexible in its implementation,” Phillips said during the meeting. “The number of personnel assigned to the individual job positions worked (should) be largely dependent upon the legally required negotiations with current bargaining units regarding salary, benefits, hours of work and related costs.”

To address concerns over legacy costs brought up during the May 25 meeting, Phillips said negotiations would aim to ensure that taxpayers would be protected against the creation of legacy costs.

Currently, the department has seven full-time and 48 paid on-call and auxiliary positions.

“This board agrees, the committee agrees and the full-time side agrees that we need additional personnel, and we want to make that happen,” Phillips said. “At the same time, we’re going to work to increase paid on-call and auxiliary positions.”

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