Trustee Looking at Dissolving South Shore Fire Consolidation

Trustee Jerry Garski says he is looking at all options to try and save village taxpayers money and stretch dollars further.

Dissolving the South Shore Fire Department is one option Trustee Jerry Garski wants to explore, saying it could save money by taking firefighters off the payroll. 

Saving money is a priority for Mount Pleasant because fire department overtime costs could be $300,000 or more over budget in 2012. Other options to address the overtime problem include and re-opening the South Shore Fire contract to address health insurance costs.

"Right off the bat, we'd save payroll on 12 to 15 firefighters," Garski said. "Right now, we're an entitlement program for Sturtevant. If we got rid of our consolidation agreement and privatized ambulance service, we could maybe save a lot of money."

The primary reason for the overage is that two full three-person crews are assigned to Station 9 in as part of the villages' 2009 consolidation agreement. or risk having some of the 2012 payment withheld. As of Feb. 20, six firefighters have been stationed in Sturtevant for all shifts every day, bringing the total number of firefighters on duty each shift to 15 when only 12 were budgeted.

He likened the relationship between the villages over South Shore to a business partnership with too much head-butting.

"There are just too many stubborn people on both sides and we're not on common ground too often," Garski added. "And with Mount Pleasant taking on the lion's share of the responsibility with finance and administration and whatnot, this isn't so much a partnership as Sturtevant just contracts for service."

Trustee Karen Albeck said she hasn't formed a firm opinion and is waiting for more information. Still, from the preliminary information she has, Albeck said it appears Mount Pleasant could save a significant amount of money.

"I need more information, but if what I've been told is accurate, (dissolving the contract) could result in significant cost reductions for Mount Pleasant, which is a positive thing," she said.

'Grasping at Straws'

Sturtevant Village President Steve Jansen said he feels like Mount Pleasant might be grasping for straws because trustees there created the situation because they didn't budget properly.

"We budget for capital purchases and our portion of the contract," he said. "The formula was calculated and agreed on in 2009. Sturtevant is fulfilling every part of the contract while Mount Pleasant has made decisions that we had nothing to do with."

South Shore Union President William Miller was incredulous at the suggestion.

"Jerry Garski just proves that he is irresponsible as a governor of the village and as a steward of the safety of citizens by even thinking about this," he said. "Separating the service means returning assets to Sturtevant and personnel, too, which can impact the reputation and image of both communities when it comes to attracting businesses and residents."

More Work Needed From All Sides

He says all sides of the table should come together to explore options and the responsible way to do it is to decide on a goal and hammer out agreements to get there.

"Along the way, though, all sides have to stick to the contracts in place," Miller added. "And yeah, sometimes getting to agreement might cost one side or the other, but that's what compromise is all about."

Jansen recognizes the consolidation contract does allow for termination and he respects that even as he disagrees with doing away it.

"I think services now are top-notch and works well for both municipalities," he said. "Consolidation is for the greater good of the entire community."

Mount Pleasant Trustee Harry Manning also thinks the agreement is good for both villages.

"There is concern in Mount Pleasant because there are some problems,” he said. “But I think it’s important to keep the agreement to reduce the cost of this community service.”

He said he knows the relationship between the villages has been strained, but having a joint fire department is better overall for both communities and not just one municipality.

Milkie said dissolving the agreement runs counter to a prevailing culture of cooperaton, consolidation and cost sharing. Plus, she added, Mount Pleasant would have to build a new station and hire more people.

“Any cost savings we might have seen would disappear,” she explained. “Plus, if we don’t stick to this agreement, it will be very hard for Mount Pleasant to find partners for any future agreements because who would trust that we wouldn’t just dissolve those, too?”

Tressa September 09, 2012 at 04:16 AM
All I have seen is speculation and suggestions of studies to occur, with no real pre-study (some call this talking out of your butt to sound like you kno what you are saying). Just cause you talk does not make what you say true. And While I am the first one to stand up and say I am NOT a union lover at ALL, OVERpaid... Really, to come at all hours and save lives, to run into a situation everyone else is running out of, to not know if you will be home after your shift... OVER PAID... the constant training they go thru to keep learning better ways to care for the communities needs... SOOOOO Fire them and let any onther bozo take the job for less... are these properly trained people who will work for less or are they just in need of a job??? They RETIRE TO EARLY??? With the wear and tear oin their bodies on a daily basis,.. with the toxins they have breathed in FOR YEARS before the better airmasks are out to better serve them and then we ARGUE is we can AFFORD TO BUY THOSE SAME MASKS... Retire early???? WOW, I guess some people just DO NOT GET IT.
Tressa September 09, 2012 at 04:16 AM
finishing my statement: P.S. I am not a city/village employee, I am not a firefighter, and the only union I was every in was forced on me for the 3 months I worked 18 years ago as a grocery clerk... took about 10% of my measly part time pay if I recall... so I am not on any political side of any of this, just the side of decent common sense. And wow, people blasting Bill Bouma, Shame on you! He is a wonderful human being and deserves either your respect or for you not to even think about him if you cannot be positive or have a legitimate (!!!) grudge of something to you specifically, not something you heard from here or there. Well, the haters can always join Mr. Garskis camp, He seems to enjoy the props he gets from the people who like things he admittedly only partially knows about.
me September 10, 2012 at 04:43 AM
Here is a board member that wants to save money at the expense of the safety of the communities that is covered. He says that he is the voice of the people right. I have yet to see him knock at my door to get the support for election or to discuss his platform. But lets go back and take a look at the guy who wants to cut things. He is the one that had outstanding taxes due before he got elected. I pay my taxes why didn't he? He also runs a business out of his home. Its my understanding and I could be wrong, that the zoning area he lives in does not allow that, unless he has a conditional use permit. But thats ok because I am the voice of the people and this is what they want. Do they really. We want our services yes. We want spending in check yes, but I want to know that my services are not going to be delayed when needed because 1 guy, "the voice" feels that is right for the entire village. Get it together board. You are going to hurt someone out there in your community and it might just cost you in the long run.
Gutierrez31 September 10, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Richard, Concerned Resident and all others who feel according, I have a few questions for you.. What is your occupation? Do you risk your life everyday to save another human life? Have you done any research into health problems Fire and Police face versus those of the average citizen? I doubt your job threatens your safety every day, or that you're saving a life on a daily basis. I love comments like these, because usually the people so against our "overcompensated" Fire and Police workers are the ones who file complaints when they do not receive the highest level of care they think they deserve. Go ahead and fire all the police and firefighters and then hire affordable non-union employees and PLEASE then compare your level of care you receive. Those would be great statistics to look at.
Gutierrez31 September 10, 2012 at 01:42 PM
I am glad to see that Tressa Kitelinger-Prudhom Stein recognizes what our Firefighters and Police go through on a daily basis. Majority of people have no idea what they go through. They want top level care with paying personnel accordingly.


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