PONTIAC (WWJ) – The financial situation in the city of Pontiac could force the fire department to dissolve, and be absorbed by the Waterford Township Fire Department.
The department currently has about 59 firefighters, but under a proposal submitted by the city’s emergency financial manager Lou Schimmel, a third of those workers would be forced to take retirement. That would leave about 40 firefighters to join the Waterford Township department.
“This financial manager, Mr. Louie Schimmel, after some negotiations with us has decided to try to outsource the Pontiac Fire Department and the fire services of the Pontiac Fire Department to a neighboring township, the Waterford Fire Department,” said Damon Harney, president of the Pontiac Firefighter’s Local 376.
Harney said they offered Schimmel a plan to keep the city’s department with a million dollars in savings beyond his plan to outsource to Waterford’s fire department.
“We have offered Mr. Schimmel a compromise, as a matter of fact, there would be slightly more savings than what he was willing to give the services for Waterford. And he seems intent at this point, to make this move happen, to make this outsource happen, even though we were able to save or offered him more money, more financial savings than the proposed Waterford deal,” said Harney.
Schimmel said closing the department is the only way to save $3 million. But, Harney fears services would be diluted if Waterford Township Fire Department is in charge of both cities.
“If you fire department is providing services in Pontiac, then who’s protecting your residents and your tax dollars?” Harney asked.
But Waterford Deputy Chief Jeff Finkbiner said that would not be the case.
“Our intent is to add to our ranks so we can provide services for both, current services that they’re currently receiving,” Finkbiner said.
Firefighters will be picketing from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday to bring awareness of the problem. The picket will take place in front of the Waterford Township Fire Department, 2495 Crescent Lake Road.
“The protest is against the outsourcing of the Pontiac Fire Department to the Waterford Fire Department,” said Harney.
Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Schimmel in September to replace the city’s previous emergency manager Michael Stampfler, who held the position for 14 months. Pontiac faces a projected $12.5 million deficit.
Last month, Schimmel fired the city’s clerk, attorney and director of public works in what he called a realignment in City Hall.