Council votes to rescind firefighter layoffs

Photo by Andrea Poteet

Mayor Pro Tem Felice Lalli (left), who ran Tuesday’s meeting in Mayor Gary Burtka’s absence, congratulates Deputy Fire Chief David Servetter (right) who was sworn in along with Fire Chief Douglas LaFond (second from left) at the meeting. Both were promoted in recent negotiations between the city and Fire Department.

‘I’m glad that we came to a temporary resolution. A difficult discussion is yet to be had, be it six months, 12 months, 18 months down the road.’
— Councilman James Flynn

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK — The jobs of firefighters here are safe, at least for now.

The City Council voted Tuesday to rescind the 30-day layoff notices given to the entire Fire Department, days before Saturday’s deadline for negotiations.

City Attorney Todd Flood said the city was able to “capture enough money” to cancel the notices, but that cuts to the Department of Public Service, Recreation Departments and other departments are imminent.

Officials warned that further concessions still may be required by the Fire Department. They have not disclosed the details of the concessions because they are not finalized, but published reports say they could include as many as five layoffs in the future.

The department had filed a grievance last year against the city, and then agreed recently to lay off one firefighter in exchange for promotions during this year’s negotiations, he said.

“I’m glad that we came to a temporary resolution,” Councilman James Flynn said. “… 2011 wage levels, 1996 taxable levels, at some point the twain shall meet, and a difficult discussion is yet to be had, be it six months, 12 months, 18 months down the road.”

The city recently reported that homes in the area are worth what they had been in 1996, meaning less taxable revenue for the city.

Flood thanked the Fire Department, as well as the Police Department, for which layoffs also had been discussed. He also announced that police are safe from layoffs for the time being.

The council also swore in Deputy Fire Chief Douglas LaFond as chief. The position had been vacant after the early retirement in July of former Fire Chief Mark Hogrebe. Lt. David Servetter was sworn in as deputy fire chief.

The positions took effect retroactively, in September and July 1, 2010, respectively, because they were a product of a concessions package between the Fire Department and the city in 2010.

“The police came to us and asked what they could do, the Fire Department sat down with us every time we asked,” Flood said. “All of them are trying to pull up the straps and short stop the funds so that we can get through 2011 and 2012.”

Jeff O’Riley, president of International Association of Firefighters Local 1410, said the firefighters are optimistic about the announcement, but that the concessions still are a “slow but positive” process.

“We’re all excited,” he said. “It’s a huge relief to know we still have jobs, but it doesn’t mean we’re taking this situation any less serious. We know the city still has a long road to go; we’re trying to help them out to get there.”

The lone layoff was an effort to do just that, he said, adding that he’s optimistic about the prospects for future negotiations.

“They chose not to follow our concessionary package (in 2010),” O’Riley said. “They finally did what they said they were going to do. We’re happy they did.”