The unanimously approved a fire agreement Monday night that allows the fire department to operate Plymouth's downtown station in addition to its own under Northville fire Chief James Allen.
The plan also allows Northville to hire 25 new paid on-call firefighters to operate the Plymouth station.
The agreement will take affect Jan. 1, 2012, and the city of Plymouth will begin operational planning and equipment purchases for the Plymouth fire station immediately, according to a presentation given by Plymouth City Manager Paul Sincock before the vote.
In October of last year, the city terminated its 14-year contract with Plymouth Township and the Plymouth Community Fire Department in order to save money. Soon after, it began seeking proposals from other municipalities to contract its fire services. Its contract with Plymouth Township expires Dec. 31.
Under the proposal, Northville would operate Plymouth's downtown station in addition to its Northville station. The plan would save Plymouth an estimated $400,000.
The city of Plymouth will be responsible for all expenses involved in the start-up of the Plymouth station, including recruiting and training up to 25 new paid on-call firefighters in 2011 as well as equipment costs. Plymouth would also pay to staff its station, but those staffers would be considered Northville employees. Any costs for new equipment and "any and all building improvements necessary to create the Plymouth station" would fall solely on Plymouth, according to the agreement.
The agreement has not been received without drawing some ire. Before the vote at the Monday meeting, several residents expressed their concerns about their safety under the new fire arrangement. One of the biggest concerns was how the agreement would affect response times in emergencies after the shift from full-time firefighters, which is what the Plymouth Community Fire Department uses, to Northville’s paid on-call model.
“I’ve had to call 911 twice since I’ve lived in Plymouth,” said Nancy Sullivan, who has been a city resident since the 1980s and whose husband has experienced heart failure. “When you’re making that 911 call in the middle of the night, you don’t want to be wondering about response time, or whether the people responding have had proper medical training.”
Sullivan also expressed her belief that residents were not given enough notice of the change in fire services or the chance to give their input.
“I can guarantee that Plymouth residents are not informed on this issue right now,” Sullivan said.
Other residents agreed, including Arthur Scott, an ex-Livonia firefighter.
“I think you dropped the ball by not asking the residents what they want and not putting this up for a vote,” Scott said to the commission.
After the public comment period, city commissioners spoke up in response to the concerns of residents.
“There will be ALS (advanced life support service) response to every resident,” said Plymouth Mayor Dan Dwyer. “I wouldn’t be OK with this if I wasn’t 100 percent sure of that. “