New fire chief sworn in during tense times

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR – The new fire chief continued the old chief’s quest: a call to retain as much of the department as possible.

“I’ll take just three minutes,” Bob Pompos told the Taylor City Council after being sworn in as fire chief Tuesday. “Approximately how long it takes us to respond to a call.”

Pompos, a veteran of 12 years with the department, replaces Steven Portis, who was fired by Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand June 17.

The same tensions that resulted in Portis’ dismissal — he will resume his rank of captain and continue serving — greet Pompos. Portis was among the many who disagreed with Lamarand and City Council decisions that included extensive layoffs. If ongoing negotiations fail to resolve a host of issues, 19 firefighters will be among 48 Taylor employees whose last day of work will be Thursday.

“I understand staffing reductions,” Pompos said. “I will not accept service reductions.”

Time is running out, but the city departments are scrambling to save jobs by Friday. On Thursday Pompos said that discussions between the city and International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1128 continue, to include possible early retirements to allow the recall of some who were given layoff notices.

“There are negotiations going on for either short-term solutions or a total remedy,” Pompos said. “Hopefully something can be worked out to provide the same level of service that we provide.”

City officials had reservations about early retirement, for either firefighters or police officers. Councilman John Delo said that allowing command-level officers to retire after 15, not 20, years and receive a full pension may open up positions for younger officers, but still doesn’t solve the problem.

“What we’re doing is transferring a portion of the burden to the retirement system,” Delo said. “I’m in favor of bringing some officers back, but the city is still going to be responsible for retirement.”

If the layoffs go through, Pompos said he is concerned about service beyond the city limits. Reducing the department to 28 and outsourcing emergency medical transport, he said, would impact more than just the citizens of Taylor.

“That could inhibit the mutual aid agreements with Downriver and western Wayne communities,” Pompos said.

Pompos previously applied for the position in 2009. A former battalion chief, he served as emergency medical services coordinator and previously worked for a private EMS company. Rather than celebrate the position, Pompos said he is single-mindedly focused on maintaining current staffing levels.

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)

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