Fire deal reached; council, mayor remain at odds

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR — Relations between city administrators, firefighters and elected officials continued a roller-coaster ride.

There was promising news that a tentative Fire Department contract had been approved, and the fate of a grant to restore positions within the department sparked a clash between city council and Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand now ready to play out in Wayne County Circuit Court.

Lamarand and Taylor Fire Union Local 1252 reached a tentative agreement June 28 after a year of negotiations. The proposed five-year deal is expected to be made official at the next regular council meeting on July 17.

Lamarand said the long-elusive contract “will allow the city to overcome a number of hurdles,” and that no further layoffs appear likely.

The agreement would preserve five positions slated for elimination under the city’s new budget, a state-mandated five-year plan to erase a growing deficit.

Fire Department supporters had hopes that an approved $8 million federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant would restore the roster to its pre-2011 peak before more than 30 firefighters — along with many other city employees — were laid off last year.

Lamarand, however, said the grant might not be acceptable as it would burden the city for another $1 million in benefits and pensions not covered by the grant. Last month the city council passed a resolution designed to force Lamarand to accept the grant; Lamarand vetoed that resolution; a second resolution was approved by council along with the hiring of an attorney to explore legal options to force the mayor to accept the grant.

Lamarand said that a hearing before Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Prentis Edwards was scheduled for Friday. (Results were unavailable at press time.)

Lamarand said that progress with the fire union was encouraging, but that the city’s finances were now threatened by a “rogue City Council which is clearly acting outside the scope of what the city charter allows.”

The city council resolution was opposed by city attorney John Martin, who said the insistence that Lamarand accept the grant exceeded the authority of the elected council.

“I remain committed to public safety as well as operating the city in a fiscally responsible manner,” Lamarand said.

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

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