Inching closer to reopening a fire station on Plymouth Township's northeast side, elected leaders have agreed to hire three new firefighters amid efforts to improve emergency response time to areas such as Lake Pointe subdivision.
The 6-1 decision by the township board came Tuesday as local officials have put the reopening of Fire Station No. 2 on the fast-track.
"I'm shooting for mid-July," Supervisor Kurt Heise said.
Local officials closed the fire station five years ago amid budget cuts and firefighter layoffs, but north-end residents have pleaded with the township board to reopen it.
The plan hinges on a joint agreement between Plymouth and Northville townships to share the fire station, on Wilcox west of Haggerty.
Heise said Tuesday the agreement is imminent.
Some township trustees said they would have preferred to see a written agreement between the townships before approving three new hires Tuesday and boosting the township's firefighter ranks from 18 to 21.
Trustee Bob Doroshewitz cast the lone dissenting vote, saying the issue is being rushed and could have waited until the township board delves more deeply into its next budget plan.
"I don't think it's fully baked," he said, adding later, "I don't think it's being done in the right order."
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Trustee Chuck Curmi voted for the measure even though he had wanted a joint operating agreement in hand before making a decision. Once the station is open, he said he wants monthly reports on how the plan is working out.
Cost estimates have ranged up to $172,800 for the remainder of this year, much of which Fire Chief Dan Phillips has said could be paid with money saved after the township earlier eliminated part-time firefighter positions. The price tag will grow as full-year costs are factored in.
Heise has said he is confident the township can afford to reopen the fire station. He said the township has $4 million general fund surplus and, in new budget talks, can seek ways to cut unnecessary spending.
"We reopen Fire Station No. 2 so we can save lives and protect property," Heise said Tuesday.
Phillips said the fire station reopening will, unquestionably, improve emergency response time to fires and medical emergencies. He said the township's recent response time has averaged six minutes/50 seconds from the time a 9-1-1 call is made until firefighter paramedics arrive.
"I'm 100 percent confident that (reopening the station) will make a difference for people throughout the township," Phillips said. "It will improve response time throughout the entire township."
Clerk Jerry Vorva has said the fire station reopening amounts to providing "equal protection" for all residents, including those in the north end. He said the township board has a duty to provide the same protection.
Even with the hiring of three new firefighters, Phillips said, the township still will have six fewer firefighters than it had in 2006.
The shuttered station became an issue in last year's township board election and Heise has made reopening it a priority.
Northville Township Fire Chief Brent Siegel has said he believes the plan will benefit both communities. He said it will improve response time in Northville Township's southeast side.
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 engine could prove beneficial because Plymouth Township's three trucks are deteriorating after being bought in 1989, 1992 and 2000.
Each township still would handle its own medical runs.