Muskegon city manager Frank Peterson says overtime, scheduling, pensions, health care costs and other fire department expenses are unsustainable.

Change, he says, is necessary. “The future model will depend on collective bargaining,” he says. “Ultimately I would like to see a very similar structure to what we have now that is just more flexible.”

Tuesday night the Muskegon City Commission approved a budget that requires cuts in fire department expenses.

Collective bargaining may determine what changes are made. “As I have said many times in many places to many people, we can do our part,” says union leader Pete Hughes, “We have proven we can do our part.”

“If bargaining goes well, we expect within 45 days we will be able to present a long term vision for fire and medical service in Muskegon,” says Peterson. If the two sides cannot reach an agreement through collective bargaining, Peterson says he will come back to the city commission with what he calls plan “B”.

“Our other options are exploring at least some kind of consolidation of public safety within the city,” he explains. “There are other options but preferably collective bargaining is the number one option.”

Peterson says he plans to have the reorganized, sustainable fire department functioning by January 1, 2018.