By BOB OLIVER
DEARBORN — The City Council approved the consolidation of the Dearborn and Melvindale fire departments June 11, and now waits until the Melvindale City Council meets again to vote on the plan.
The proposed merger passed unanimously at the council meeting with two parts in the resolution. The first accepts that the merger is an initial term of 15 years subject to the terms of the agreement, and the second is that Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. is authorized to execute a formal contract with Melvindale upon the approval of the Dearborn Law Department.
Council President Thomas Tafelski said the merger plans have been discussed for the last few years and that it will benefit everyone involved.
“This is trying to do more with less and looking for help from outside communities,” Tafelski said. “This is taking the city of Dearborn’s fire department and the city of Melvindale’s fire department and consolidating the operations, equipment and manpower. Dearborn residents’ fire service will not suffer. In fact, it will enhance in certain areas.”
Tafelski excused himself from the vote because he felt there would be a conflict of interest in his participation in the decision because of his work as a financial planner with the city of Melvindale. Council President Pro-Tem Suzanne Sareini stepped in to lead the vote.
The Melvindale City Council met on June 5 to discuss the merger but did not vote on it. The council did, however, approve the acceptance of a $264,500 Competitive Grant Assistance Program grant from the state to be used for training and equipment. The council is expected to meet Wednesday.
Dearborn approved the acceptance of the money at its May 28 city council meeting.
If Melvindale approves the merger, the city would pay Dearborn $1.25 million annually. This money would cover operating costs such as salaries and go into a general fund that would be used for vehicle repairs and replacements. Both cities would share this fund.
Though the plan is a merger, Dearborn would effectively takeover the operations for both cities. Fire Chief Joseph Murray would run the consolidated departments with Melvindale Fire Chief Steven Densmore the deputy chief.
The DFD would absorb all 13 Melvindale firefighters (the DPD currently has 121 firefighters) but the seven highest ranking officers would remain under the Melvindale pension system. The remaining firefighters would work under the Dearborn pension system. Any new hires to the consolidated department would become Dearborn employees. Dearborn will also rent Melvindale’s fire station for $1 annually.
The plan also listed the benefits for the cities both combined and individually.
Both cities are to see an improved service to their communities, reduce costs, eliminate redundant services and have a more efficient staffing model. According to the plan, the move makes geographic sense also based on the current positions of the five stations of the combined departments.
Benefits specific for Melvindale that are mentioned in the plan are an increased response levels for emergencies, the availability of more EMS/Fire vehicles, more rapid Second Due Alarms and full-time divisions for non-suppression services. It would also allow them to eliminate their reliance on assistance from the Allen Park Fire Department.
Benefits for Dearborn include an improvement in response time to all areas in the southeast and southwest sections of the city, an increase in firefighters that are available daily to 28, an increased availability of EMS rigs and an added confined space rescue team to the department.
Both of the International Association of Fire Fighters locals in each city, No. 412 in Dearborn and No. 1728 in Melvindale, have agreed to the plan.
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected])