4 Lansing unions OK cuts to save city jobs
List of layoffs reduced for firefighters, police officers
Lansing State Journal, Jun. 29, 2011
In June 2002, Jennifer Norman and her family returned from buying supplies for her high school graduation party to find their house on fire.
A 911 dispatcher asked to put a family member on hold, she said, so her younger brother ran to the nearest fire station around the corner on Todd Avenue for help.
Norman thinks that quick response is what saved her family's house from worse damage. It's that response that will be missed, she said, when the station closes this week.
"If you sit here and they get called, you can actually hear the bell ring," Norman said. "The impact is going to be a lot."
Her neighborhood station, No. 5 - near Mt. Hope and South Washington avenues - and station No. 7 on North Jenison Avenue near West Saginaw Street will close Friday as part of citywide budget cuts.
In addition, dozens of municipal employees will be laid off for the start of the new fiscal year, but dozens more will keep their jobs after the unions that represent them agreed to concessions.
Four city unions agreed to increased health care contributions and other changes in an effort to preserve jobs. Changes included increased shares of premiums, higher deductibles and co-pays and reduced minimum staffing levels for firefighters.
· "We've made real progress in that regard," Mayor Virg Bernero said of the health care savings. In all:
· Of 34 firefighters who received layoff notices, 23 will continue working. Thirty-four other fire employees agreed to be demoted.
· The 34 police officers to be laid off are eight fewer than originally planned.
· All 10.5 layoffs expected in the city's Teamsters 580 union will be avoided, including two code compliance officers. The union includes clerical, technical, professional and supervisory positions.
· Two layoffs will continue for the city's Teamsters 214 group, even with the agreement. This includes administrative and technical staff.
Up to three fire stations were pegged for closure when Lansing City Council members approved a roughly $99.5 million budget that included deep cuts to police and fire departments in the wake of a failed May millage vote.
Bryan Epling, Lansing Fire Fighters IAFF Local 421 president, did not release the union's ratification vote but said it was evidence that firefighters understand "these are tough decisions that needed to be made."
"It's painful to close any fire station," Epling said. "We pride ourselves in our stations being part of the neighborhood."
The union is working with administration on restructuring zones to compensate for the closed stations, he said. Response times likely will slow.
Paul Evansen, a firefighter at the closing station No. 7, said he believes the department will make every effort to maintain their level of service.
"When you're cutting manpower, especially when you're cutting stations and rigs, it's going to be a big task," said Evansen, one of 11 firefighters who will be laid off this week. "Literally every second counts, and it gets very tough."
The city budget tied $3.3 million in state statutory revenue sharing to every dollar gained in concessions to save jobs. Administration spokesman Randy Hannan said Monday the city will release final savings for the city from the concessions after costs are adjusted.
At-large Councilman Brian Jeffries said he was told the figure is roughly $2.7 million, with a city unit of the United Auto Workers and police supervisors union still not complete.
Union leaders with the Fraternal Order of Police did not respond Tuesday to messages seeking comment.