By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR — Things are rarely routine at Taylor City Hall, especially with regards funding and administering the city’s public safety departments. A recent ray of hope to restore firefighters to the department roster may not be realized due to the city having had to outsource emergency and ambulance service.
The Taylor Fire Department currently includes 21 fire suppression positions along with three administrators, a staff less than half of the 61 firefighters from January 2011. Throughout the past 18 months, Taylor’s severe budget problems resulted in layoffs that left the department with a skeleton crew to staff the one fire station kept open — two were closed during the whittling-down process.
Earlier this year Fire Chief Bob Tompos said that a grant of $8.1 million from the Federal Emergency Management Administration, Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, was approved and would provide the funds to restore the laid-off positions.
However, the grant request was written based upon a department that performed Emergency Medical Services transportation, which was eliminated after the proposal was submitted. Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand said that an amended application was sent too late, and that he asked FEMA if the grant could still be accepted given the changes in the department.
“It hasn’t been accepted or denied at this point,” Lamarand said. “We’re in a holding pattern and trying to figure out if we can recognize our obligations under the obligations of the grant if we accept.”
Lamarand said that questions have been asked to clarify the terms of the grant. As has often been the case, firefighters and city officials are waiting to see if the funds can be used, and are under a deadline that could result in additional layoffs. Under a budget submitted to state officials designed to avoid financial management takeover, the new fiscal year’s payroll beginning July 1 is projected as having five fewer firefighters on staff than the current 24.
Taylor Fire Chief Bob Tompos said he remains hopeful that either the grant can be accepted or city and union officials can find a way to keep the current staff on call.
“We continue to talk,” Tompos said. “Hopefully the city and union can come up with some type of compensation package that won’t be a burden to the city, and maybe still consider if they can use the grant.”
Tompos said that preparing the grant application, which would be the largest federal donation given to a Michigan department, was thought to be the solution to the staffing problem.
“I wish they’d take it,” Tompos said. “We were proud of the fact that we worked hard on that grant. We’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got, and will continue to do that.”
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected].)