Regents Get Update on Town-Gown Relations
Updates from Kosteva, Ann Arbor firefighter
Matt Schroeder, president of the Ann Arbor firefighters Local 693, spoke to UM regents at their Sept. 17 board meeting about how possible firefighter layoffs could affect campus safety. (Photo by the writer.)
University of Michigan Board of Regents (Sept. 17, 2009): UM regents heard two presentations at their Thursday board meeting that closely linked the university and the community of Ann Arbor. Jim Kosteva, UM director of community relations, gave an update on the ways that the university is involved with the city, including payments as well as partnerships. And Matt Schroeder, president of the Ann Arbor firefighters Local 693, spoke during public comment on the possibility of additional layoffs among city firefighters and the potential impact it would have on the university.
Ann Arbor Firefighters
Speaking during public comment time at the end of the meeting, Matt Schroeder, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 693, said that his union was concerned about the possibility of 14 layoffs and the possible closure of two stations, due to city budget cuts. They are currently in negotiations with the city, he said, and he was coming to the regents meeting to inform them of the situation. Statements from city administrator Roger Fraser about possible layoffs “send an alarming message to us regarding citizen safety and the safety of our crews,” he said, noting that layoffs would have a direct impact on their ability to provide basic services. There are currently 92 Ann Arbor firefighters.
Schroeder passed out a document that included information on national standards for fire ground staffing, as well as comparisons between communities in the Big Ten and throughout Michigan. Those comparisons looked at general population size, student populations, number of firefighters and equipment. Ann Arbor has the lowest number of career firefighters per 1,000 population of any community in the Big Ten, he said. All but Iowa City have more than 1.1 firefighters per 1,000 people – Ann Arbor has 0.804, a figure that would drop to 0.682 if 14 firefighters were eliminated.
He reminded regents that the university has many large buildings, and relies on Ann Arbor firefighters to respond. [The university does not maintain its own fire department and does not make regular payments to the city for fire service. It does provide rent and operating costs for a north campus fire station, on Beal Avenue near Plymouth Road, which is staffed by Ann Arbor firefighters. The university occasionally makes other contributions, such as $300,000 it paid in fiscal 2004 for a city fire engine.]
Regents expressed support for the issues that Schroeder raised. Regent Larry Deitch said that he was concerned, adding that no other group of people are more selfless and brave than firefighters. Deitch asked what the regents could do to help. Schroeder said that they just wanted to convey the current situation, and that they feel they can’t absorb additional layoffs.
Regent Denise Ilitch said that her sister had been involved in a fire at a Chicago hotel, and a firefighter had saved her life. Rest assured, she told Schroeder, that university officials will do whatever they can to make sure that people in Ann Arbor and students at UM are safe.