By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR — Fire Chief Bob Tompos said the absence of providing Emergency Medical Service felt, in a way, as if they’d lost family members.
“This is something the guys are real proud of doing,” Tompos said Thursday, the final day of work for 17 firefighters with EMS responsibilities. Starting Friday, medical services fell under the direction of Taylor-based HealthLink and its parent company, Oakwood Healthcare Inc.
“I don’t know how to react to it,” Tompos said. “It’s kind of disheartening.”
It’s been a disheartening year for the department since it was staffed by more than 60 firefighters and paramedics, a number now at 24 including three administrators. Minimum staffing from one of three fire stations was where the department stood Friday after 17 firefighters were laid off. The cuts were among a series of hard decisions made by city officials wrestling with a $5 million budget deficit and possible financial takeover by the state.
“The city is running out of money and we have run out of time,” Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand said last week. “The decision had to be made for the city’s financial well being.”
Lamarand said the elimination of EMS and staff reductions will save the city between $1 million and $2 million annually, one piece of the financial plan to avoid takeover.
Resolving the municipal budget crisis will not likely bring back any firefighters in the near future, but Tompos said that
other options are being explored. A Federal Emergency Management Authority grant is being pursued that helps struggling department recall laid off first-responders, and — as with many Downriver communities — options for sharing services with neighboring departments are being considered.
“That’s about the best we can do,” Tompos said. “Hopefully this down cycle will turn back up and we’ll start recovering. We’ll get it back.”