By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR — Last week’s re-opening of two shuttered fire stations has long been debated by city officials, and the subject of court filings and campaign platforms. Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand said the long-awaited day was not the result of any litigation but instead was made possible after equipment upgrades earned state certification of Advanced Life Support capabilities.
“It’s always been about the practicality of getting the engines certified,” Lamarand said. “They should have been certified at the end of last year.”
Lamarand gave the green light on Tuesday to reopen the north and south stations that had been closed since November 2011. At the time, the facilities on Ecorse and Eureka were said to have been “shuttered,” a decision based on staffing limitations as the city continued a financial decline that had grown to an estimated $5 million budget shortfall.
Attempts to re-populate the stations since then included potential grant funding — the acceptance of which twice became a legal matter between Lamarand and city council — and negotiations for providing Advanced Life Support services.
Earlier this month Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen MacDonald dismissed a contempt of court motion brought by city council against Lamarand for having not reopened the stations.
The city’s financial picture improved somewhat, and the city is now entering its third year of a state-guided five-year debt elimination plan. Lamarand said that the costs for reopening the stations hadn’t been part of the approved, long-term plan. Recent developments to include sale of the former Media Play building put the city in a position to accommodate the modest budget increase.
“Right now it’s still nominal, but utility costs will go up,” Lamarand said. “But knowing that the preliminary outlook of our budget returns appear better than anticipated, we feel comfortable that we can build this into a long-term plan.”
The stations will be open around-the-clock with a minimum of one engine truck and three firefighters. Lamarand said that final ALS certification is expected within a few weeks.
“Our firefighters (will be able to) provide ALS services upon arrival to a scene,” Lamarand said. Both fire department and Healthlink staff will be available, and the re-opened stations will allow the department to maintain emergency services.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])