A Plymouth Township fire station, closed five years ago amid budget cuts and firefighter layoffs, could possibly reopen as early as July, officials say.
The plan hinges on the initial hiring of three new firefighters and a joint agreement between Plymouth and Northville townships to share Fire Station No. 2, on Wilcox near Schoolcraft. The shuttered station became a hot-button issue in last year's election and new Supervisor Kurt Heise has made reopening it a priority.
"We certainly have the money to open station (No.) 2 right now," Heise said.
Still, some township board trustees indicated during a Tuesday night meeting that they want more proof that the township can afford the plan long term.
"I'm not comfortable without a spending plan," Trustee Chuck Curmi said.
Fire Chief Dan Phillips said a move to reopen the fire station would reduce response times to fires and medical emergencies on the township's north side, especially in Lake Pointe subdivision, which accounted for 22 percent of all fire department runs last year.
Township-wide, average response time at last count was 6½ minutes. But Lake Pointe resident Jessica Herron told the board it took firefighters eight minutes to get to her house April 1 for a car fire that spread to a garage attached to her home, causing $25,000 in damage. A passerby saw the flames and alerted the family.
"I could be standing here missing my three children," Herron said.
She was among residents who implored the board to reopen Fire Station No. 2, but others voiced caution due to finances.
"I really think we need to have everything in line beforehand," resident Duane Zantop said.
Phillips estimated it would cost $172,800 this year alone to hire three new firefighters and buy the equipment needed to reopen the station. He said much of the money could come from savings that followed the elimination of part-time firefighters, among other cost-cutting measures.
Heise said the township could use some of its $4 million general fund surplus and, in new budget talks this year, find ways to pay the fire station tab by cutting unnecessary spending elsewhere. However, Curmi, Trustee Bob Doroshewitz and Treasurer Mark Clinton indicated they would prefer to see a financial plan before moving ahead.
A joint agreement between Plymouth and Northville townships still would have to be drafted and signed. Northville Township Fire Chief Brent Siegel said he believes the plan holds promise for his community by reducing response time to emergencies on the southeast side. He said Northville Township last summer used Plymouth Township Fire Station No. 2 to avoid delays in response time when Six Mile Road was closed for a construction project.
"We have been able to see the benefits in improved response time in the southeast corner of the township," Siegel said, adding that the two townships have "a great working relationship."
Under the plan, Plymouth and Northville townships would both assign firefighters and equipment to the station. Phillips said access to Northville Township's newer fire engines could prove beneficial because Plymouth Township's three trucks were bought in 1989, 1992 and 2000, respectively.
Each township still would handle its own medical runs.
While Plymouth Township would initially need to hire three new firefighters, Phillips said the goal would be to hire three more in 2018 to boost staffing levels from the current 18 firefighters to 24 — still less than the 26 firefighters the township had in 2006.
"I think 24 (firefighters) is the right number for this department right now," he said.
The township currently has Fire Station No. 1 and No. 3 open. The township board agrees that reopening Fire Station No. 2 and hiring new firefighters are laudable goals.
"I want to do it in a responsible way, in a sustainable way," Doroshewitz said.
Heise said Wednesday it wasn't clear when the issue of hiring new firefighters and approving a joint agreement with Northville Township might occur. Phillips has indicated he will provide more financial information to the board.
Plymouth Township is considering a plan to reopen Fire Station No. 2.ownlife.com