By SHERRI KOLADE and ANDREA POTEET
DEARBORN — Dearborn fire union’s president has faith that the Melvindale fire union will vote in favor of a planned fire department merger after an original vote against it failed Jan. 21.
Joey Thorington, Dearborn Firefighters Union, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 412, President said the Melvindale fire union, IAFF Local 1728, may change their minds from their original vote against merging their fire department with Dearborn’s department.
“We are still negotiating,” Thorington said. “Things are being discussed. There are a lot of working parts and pieces. It is not over, that is for sure.”
The planned merger included Dearborn absorbing Melvindale’s 15 firefighters and its station. The Melvindale firefighters would still work at their original station.
Thorington said he is not at liberty to discuss the details of the merger, because details are still being discussed.
He also said he preferred not to go into details regarding the next step for Thorington said Dearborn has 112 firefighters. Its City Charter requires 120 full-time firefighters.
According to www.dearbornff.org, the City Charter states that 1.24 firefighters per 1,000 residents are needed for adequate staffing.
Thorington said by absorbing Melvindale’s 15 firefighters and fire chief, Dearborn would return to its minimum staffing levels of 120.
“We need to hire eight (people) to put (our fire department) at minimum staffing levels,” Thorington said. “(Things are) still coming together. We have a working relationship with Melvindale and I am not worried about the future.”
Dearborn Fire Chief Joseph Murray said after a meeting between the two cities on Feb. 6, he will have a better idea of the fire department’s next step.
“We will have a clear cut idea of how many firefighters are on duty,” Murray said. If the proposal passes, “on any given day, there will be more firefighters able to respond in Dearborn or Melvindale.”
Murray said the February union agreement meeting will take place at Dearborn City Hall, with Dearborn and Melvindale mayors in attendance, along with finance directors, labor attorneys and fire department officials.
“We are just meeting about if we want to continue to move forward on a final plan that is cost-effective and benefits both (cities),” Murray said.
Murray said the unions are still talking and the city officials are formalizing proposals to work out any kinks.
“We’ve been proactively trying to get the (unions) working with each other to discuss seniority and rank issues,” Murray said. “I’m very glad they are having dialogue. It is maybe a little bit ahead, because we don’t really have the final proposal yet.”
Murray said merger details have not been worked out yet and he does not have an official answer on whether Dearborn will absorb Melvindale’s 15 firefighters.
“We don’t know yet,” Murray said. “After that meeting we will have more of an idea. There are no plans to do away with any of the stations.”
Thorington said Dearborn’s fire staffing levels is not a union issue.
“Overall, the numbers are more of a city issue, which they are working out,” Thorington said. “We are working with the city to provide the best services we can for the residents.”
Thorington said he hopes the process will be finished in a few weeks.
“It is just nice to have an answer to see in what direction we can go,” Thorington said.
(Sherri Kolade can be reached at [email protected])