Pontiac firefighters protest plans to shutter department

Dec 6, 2011

First the police department, and now the fire department.

The city of Pontiac, like many cities across the U.S., is facing a future with less money.

The state-appointed emergency manager in Pontiac, Lou Schimmel, wants to close the city's fire department.

From WXYZ News:

Closing the fire department, Schimmel says, is one part of the solution and will save the city $3 million. Schimmel says pay and benefit cuts will come with the deal. "If we do everything the same, we'll be out of business and nobody's going to get paid," Schimmel says. "They'll all lose their jobs." Schimmel has given firefighters until Friday to ratify the deal.

The Detroit Free Press quotes Kenneth Estell, a trustee with Pontiac Firefighters Union Local 376 who says the union will fight the changes "to the end":

“We love our jobs. We love our citizens. There’s a lot of tradition in this department. And we’re saving the citizens money. And when it comes to the safety of the citizens, we provide a good service.”

Estell says they've offered alternatives to the proposed cuts.

Pontiac's emergency manager says their proposals don't come close to the $3 million in cuts needed. From the Detroit Free Press:

“It’s the only option -- we save $3 million,” Schimmel said, adding the changes would take effect in January. “There is no way in the world we can save $3 million by keeping our own fire department. They didn’t even come close to a million dollars, let alone $3 million. And we are running out of cash.”

Pontiac firefighters have until Dec 9 to approve of a plan that would "offer early retirement to 18 firefighters, bonuses to others and the opportunity to be hired by Waterford Township."

As a state-appointed emergency manager, Schimmel has the authority to dissolve existing union contracts.