By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR — The change may not show immediate affects, but city officials said the employee contract with firefighters bring financial relief that will benefit taxpayers down the road.
City council approved Tuesday a tentative agreement with Taylor Fire Union Local 1252 after a year of often contentious negotiations. The contract supports concerns within the department of job loss, and prevents any further layoffs.
The union and Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand reached an agreement last month for the proposed five-year deal, terms that also preserved five firefighter positions targeted for layoffs in the city’s five-year deficit reduction budget.
Any future firefighters hired by the department will adhere to a revised pension formula, City Council Chair Cheryl Burke said.
“All new hires will go into a traditional, combined contribution plan,” Burke said. Rather than the retirement scheme under Act 345 that required the city to cover all pensions — done through a millage that Burke said increases as needed without requiring voter approval — the new contract offers a dollar-for-dollar match similar to a 401K retirement fund.
Burke said she was pleased to see the retirement clause along with concessions made, and called it “a step” toward
resolving lingering tensions between the department and city administration. The current staff of 21 remained intact, and a pending $8 million grant could bring back some or all of the 32 firefighters laid off last year.
The fire department was approved to receive a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant from the Federal Emergency Management Administration, the acceptance of which sparked both debate and legal actions between Lamarand and the council.
Lamarand said he was hesitant to accept the grant if the city would — following the two-year period of the fund — be liable for up to $1 million in pensions and benefits. Last month the council twice passed resolutions to force Lamarand to accept the grant; Lamarand vetoed the resolution and the council took the matter before Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Prentis Edwards, who sided with the council and ordered the mayor to accept the grant.
Lamarand was expected to appeal the court ruling, and was also working with FEMA to determine if a portion of the grant could be accepted.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])