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Fire Department Takeover Proposal

flickr user: aka cj

Details of the proposed Muskegon Fire Department takeover by the City of Muskegon Heights were unveiled Monday evening. Among them would be the elimination of a number of jobs.

The proposal would eliminate the Muskegon Fire Department, and hand over firefighting responsibilities to the Muskegon Heights Fire Department.

Muskegon Heights City Manager Jake Eckholm and Muskegon Heights Fire Chief Christopher Dean presented the details Monday to the City Commission.

Eckholm insists, it’s a win/win for both cities.

“Honestly, it’s something where there is potential for, better fire service coverage in both municipalities at a more cost effective rate.”

Meanwhile, local firefighters are rejecting the proposal, citing a number of logistical and safety issues the takeover would create. Sean Abby is the 2nd District Vice President for the Michigan Professional Firefighters Union.

“You can’t take two, woefully understaffed, woefully underfunded fire departments, put them together, and then magically have a great fire department. Something is missing.”

Roughly 20 full time Muskegon firefighters would lose their jobs under the proposal. While city Manager Eckholm says the Heights has every intention of hiring a number of those firefighters, those who got the job would lose their seniority status, start over at the bottom, and for many, take up to a 50 percent pay cut.

Muskegon Local 370 President Chris Drake says, he doubts many would bother to apply.

“You’ve got to remember too, many of us are already in our mid 40’s and above. I’m not sure that the Heights is going to get the number of applicants they are hoping for from the city. That is a reality.”

The Muskegon Heights City Commission will consider the proposal June 11th.