MUSKEGON, MICH. - After five lengthy meetings over the last two months the city of Muskegon and union representatives for its' firefighters have ended talks.
The two sides weren't making progress in an effort to find $689,000 in reductions. And the department is on track to go over budget this fiscal year.
The Muskegon Fire Department has 33 full-time employees. At the close of 2017 the number may be smaller. The city is considering imposing staffing reductions.
"There are real fiscal concerns," said David Taylor, Muskegon. "I have no doubt about that."
Taylor recently sent Muskegon Commissioners a letter explaining why he opposes any cuts to staffing levels at the fire department. He believes staffing reductions would threaten the safety of city residents.
"If things are going well then you don't need them, if things don't go well then you need them right now," said Taylor.
His son is a Muskegon firefighter. And so Taylor is also concerned about the careers of staff the city may layoff.
"The younger ones probably not a problem, the older ones probably a career killer," Taylor said.
Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson shares that concern. But says ultimately the city of Muskegon needs structural changes inside the fire department.
"The goal here is putting the right system in place," said Peterson.
City Manager Peterson says skyrocketing overtime, retiree health care, and pension costs are a big part of the problem making the fire department's budget so difficult to manage.
Muskegon City Commissioners next meet on September 12. The agenda for that meeting has not been posted on the city's website. The issue could be discussed at that meeting.
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