By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR – The struggling Taylor Fire Department suffered another setback last week with the announcement that two of the city’s three fire stations will close due to budget restrictions.
“I’m a little nervous,” Taylor Fire Chief Bob Tompos said Friday, citing the possibility that response times — previously slowed down due to loss of personnel and one fire truck from the department— may as much as double for residents on the outer borders of the city.
Beginning tomorrow, the department will shut down its north and south stations on Ecorse and Eureka roads, and all operations will move to the central station on Goddard Road.
“It’s a drastic step we have to take because of reduced staffing,” Tompos said. “We’re not left with many.”
Fire and EMS staffing has been cut by 22 in recent months, bringing the manpower down to 36 firefighters and paramedics compared to 59 who were on the city’s payroll earlier this year.
“It’s now arranged that 10 people can work a shift,” Tompos said. “That’s all we have left.”
The two stations will close indefinitely while the city and department continue negotiations that have shown little progress or promise. For a time, overtime dollars were spent to maintain minimum staffing levels, but Tompos said that the overtime budget of $200,000 that was expected to last through June 2012 has already been exhausted. In August the department agreed to sell a ladder truck for an anticipated $300,000 — “like pawning a fire truck,” Tompos said — and another vehicle will now be taken out of service.
“You can only depend on mutual aid (from neighboring communities) for so long,” Tompos said. “Every day is a crap shoot; you don’t want anything serious to happen.”
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])