Dearborn-Melvindale fire merger begins

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Photo by Bob Oliver
Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. (front row right) signs the contract Friday at Dearborn City Hall to merge the Dearborn and Melvindale fire departments. Melvindale Mayor Stacy Striz (second from right) also signed the contract, which went into effect on Sunday.

By BOB OLIVER
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN – After months of discussion and training, the merging of the Dearborn and Melvindale fire departments is finally a reality. A ceremonial signing commemorating the one-year anniversary of the beginning of talks took place Friday, but the merger went into affect Sunday.

The city councils for both cities passed the proposed merger in June and since then the departments have been training together and working toward a smooth transition of operations.

“This is a very exciting day,” Melvindale Mayor Stacy Striz said. “It’s emotional, but it’s the right move for the city.”

Striz was joined at the signing by Melvindale City Clerk Diana Zarazua and City Administrator Jim Beri. Beri said the merger was a real collaborative effort between the city and the firefighters unions and that it will be a model for other cities.

“We’re here today doing something historic, and I think that it is something that everyone else will want to do in the future,” Beri said.

Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said the merger was good for both cities.

“It’s wonderful when you have something like this, where the change is to everyone’s benefit,” O’Reilly said. “Both parties save money and retain excellent services for their customers.”

He added that because of modern finances, mergers are something that will become more important for cities like Dearborn.

“We have to accept what the future holds,” O’Reilly said. “We have to be a lot more creative and explore partnerships that can make our services more effective for our residents while remaining cost-effective.”

After the contract merging the departments was signed, Dearborn City Clerk Kathleen Buda swore the MFD Chief Steven Densmore and the his 13 firefighters in as Dearborn firefighters. Densmore will serve as deputy chief of the combined departments under DFD Chief Joseph Murray.

Though the plan is a merger, Dearborn effectively takes the operations for both cities.

The DFD will absorb all 13 Melvindale firefighters with the seven highest ranking officers remaining under the Melvindale pension system. The remaining firefighters will work under the Dearborn pension system. Any new hires to the consolidated department will be Dearborn employees. The DFD also will rent Melvindale’s fire station for $1 annually.

Melvindale will also pay Dearborn $1.25 million annually as part of the merger. This money will cover operating costs such as salaries and go into a general fund that will be used for vehicle repairs and replacements. Both cities will share the fund.

The merger is slated to have many benefits for the cities both combined and individually.

Both cities are expected to see an improved service to their communities, reduced costs, an elimination of redundant services and have a more efficient staffing model.

According to the plans, the move also makes geographic sense based on the current positions of the five stations of the combined departments, since some of Dearborn’s stations are closer to Melvindale and Melvindale’s station is closer to southwest Dearborn than any of their existing stations.

Benefits specific for Melvindale are an increased response levels for emergencies, the availability of more EMS/Fire vehicles, more rapid Second Due Alarms and full-time divisions for non-suppression services. It also will allow them to eliminate their reliance on assistance from the Allen Park Fire Department.

Benefits for Dearborn include an improvement in response time to all areas in the southeast and southwest sections of the city, an increase in firefighters that are available daily to 28, an increased availability of EMS rigs and an added confined space rescue team to the department.

Both of the International Association of Fire Fighters locals in each city, No. 412 in Dearborn and No. 1728 in Melvindale, have agreed to the plan.

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)

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