Traverse City Record-Eagle

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December 25, 2013

Newsmakers: City fire department elimination awaits study

EDITOR’S NOTE: Newsmakers 2013 profiles people, places and events that made news in the Grand Traverse region during the past year.

TRAVERSE CITY — A proposal to turn Traverse City’s fire protection over to the area’s largest fire department continues to smolder, and officials are waiting to determine whether a study can rekindle consolidation talks.

Mayor Michael Estes led the cost-cutting effort to disband the Traverse City Fire Department in favor of Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department, an agency primarily staffed by part-time firefighters who serve three surrounding townships.

The contentious issue was at the forefront of city election campaigns this year, but quickly moved to the back burner as community leaders await a study that’s due in March.

“This is an issue that everybody is holding their comments close because they want to see what this consultant says,” said Pat Parker, chief of Metro Fire. “We are keeping our minds open, as well.”

Township officials chose Oregon-based Emergency Services Consulting International to conduct the study at a cost of $45,251. The consultants have begun collecting data from the city and Metro Fire, with site visits planned at the end of January. Officials from East Bay, Acme, and Garfield townships who comprise the authority board that oversees Metro Fire chose to fund the study themselves with the help of a $11,300 state grant.

“We wanted the city to be part of it, but we didn’t want it to be city-focused,” said Chuck Korn, Garfield Township supervisor and chair of the Metro Fire board. “We want a study on this particular merger, as well as a template for making merger decisions in the future. A lot of stuff is in flux right now.”

Whitewater Township officials recently met with Metro officials to discuss the possibility of joining Metro Fire or contracting for services.

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