By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
RIVERVIEW – Resident Jerry Cross asked city officials at the Sept. 18 City Council meeting why dangerously low Fire Department staffing levels were occurring on some shifts, a condition city officials deny.
“I just want to know why we are having one to three guys working a day when there are supposed to be four,” Cross said. “I mean, the fire chief knows a house fires doubles every two minutes. You can’t put a house fire out with three guys.
“And to assume that a neighboring city is going to be available to help you, well, you know what they say about assumptions. So what’s the plan for the Fire Department?”
Mayor Andrew Swift said he did not know what Cross’ motivation is, but the city is in negotiations with the department.
“When any Riverview resident calls for police, a police car will show up,” Swift said. “When you call for an ambulance, an ambulance will show up. If you call for a fire truck, a fire truck will show up with firemen on it. That’s what’s going to happen and that’s the way it is, and the way it always will be.”
“Now are those trucks going to say ‘City of Riverview’ on them every time?” Cross asked.
“Those trucks will say ‘City of Riverview,’” Swift said. “If not, they will say either Trenton or Wyandotte. We all know we are all part of mutual aid.”
Mutual aid is an agreement among emergency responders to help across jurisdictional boundaries. Mutual aid usually is initiated only when requested. With automatic aid agreements, help may be dispatched based on which resource is closest, regardless of city boundaries.
Cross said mutual aid is not a substitute for reduced staffing situations.
“Having three guys on a four-man shift is not mutual aid,” Cross said.
Cross asked Swift if Riverview was covered under the Whistleblower’s Protection Act, a federal law that protects government employees who report violations from retaliatory action.
Swift said he believes it is.
“So why are people being threatened for their jobs for talking to the residents?” Cross asked, to which Swift replied that he was not going to comment.
Swift responded on Sept. 21 to an email request for staffing level clarification, stating that normal staffing at the Fire Department is four people, as agreed upon with the fire union.
He said when a rescue comes in, two people respond with the ambulance. If a second call comes in, the other two people respond with the city’s second ambulance, noting that Riverview only has two ambulances. If a third call were to occur, he said Trenton or Wyandotte personnel would likely respond through mutual aid agreements.
Swift said that when a fire engine answers a call, all four firefighters respond, and further calls would be responded to through the mutual aid community.
He said budget cuts have not delayed the replacement of any Fire Department equipment.
Swift declined to comment on Firefighter Richard Cadoura’s July 28 termination except to confirm it.
Cadoura has claimed on social media that he was wrongly terminated after nearly nine years as a Riverview Fire Department employee for reporting unsafe conditions within the department.
City Manager and Finance Director Douglas Drysdale said in a Sept. 22 email response that he would not comment on Cadoura’s employment status with the city because it was “an open personnel issue.”
Drysdale said the department has had shifts with less than the standard four firefighters due to employees “calling off their shifts and other employees not picking them up.”
He said the city’s roster has 30 firefighters, so there is available personnel to pick up shifts.
Drysdale said the department has had no budget cuts in recent years, and the deputy chief makes capital outlay requests each year through the budget process, and equipment is replaced as needed and within industry guidelines for useful life.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)