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Report: Fire Dept. adapts to reduced resources, staff

By: Eric Czarnik | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published February 2, 2011

 Lt. Michael Shimskey stands in front of Station No. 5. The Fire Department has been handling more calls despite budgetary pressures and reduced staff.

Lt. Michael Shimskey stands in front of Station No. 5. The Fire Department has been handling more calls despite budgetary pressures and reduced staff.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — A new report on the West Bloomfield Fire Department shows that the agency has been trying to do more with less.

The Fire Department’s 2010 annual report and quarterly report were presented to the West Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees Jan. 24. At the meeting, Trustee Howard Rosenberg was so impressed with the annual report’s thoroughness that he wished that the township had the funds to send it out to every home.

“This was one of the best reports that I have ever seen,” he said. “Your annual report was particularly noteworthy in terms of anybody looking at it being able to understand what it is that the Fire Department is doing for the community.”

According to the report, the Fire Department conducted 8.7 percent more calls for service last year than it did in 2009. In 2010, it also had three retirements, and staffing was down about 12 positions from its peak.

The report also makes clear that the department will make additional training and preparedness with fewer resources two of its main goals.

Before the meeting, Fire Chief Jay Wiseman said the department has responded to rising demands by restructuring its operational activities and redistributing its workloads.

The department also has set up committees to help shoulder other necessary activities, he said. One example is the operations committee, a group of command staff members who meet monthly to review issues and make recommendations to the chief, he said.

Wiseman praised his force for handling the workflow redistribution well. “Crews are really doing a good job of picking up the extra (duties), and I certainly appreciate their efforts,” he said. “The demand continues to increase. Revenues and personnel continue to decrease. We strive to balance all of that.”

The Board of Trustees unanimously made the township’s firefighter hiring practices a policy rather than an ordinance. Wiseman called the move a housekeeping issue.

“Ordinances are very difficult to change,” he said. “Whereas a policy, it’s just a little easier for them to address.”

Wiseman explained that the township is taking a wait-and-see approach with hiring. According to the 2010 report, the Fire Department has 57 firefighters.

“Right now, contract negotiations are under way,” he said. “Once those are completed and all of those final costs are known, then the township will move forward with the millage; and then at that point, we’ll have a better vision of what our financial (situation) is, and then make the determination on whether to hire.”

The chief was optimistic about residents supporting a future ballot initiative to renew and enlarge the 3.1378-mill public safety millage. He added that the residents’ financial support of the Fire Department has reaped benefits.

The Insurance Services Organization has lowered the township’s score to a 4, and that could even go down to a 3 soon, he said. This has produced aggregate insurance savings that have gone back to the residents, he said.

“We are now able to actually demonstrate to the community that their support for us has been a good investment,” he said.

The Fire Department’s 2010 annual report is available on the township’s website, www.wbtwp.com.
 

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