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Ann Arbor Mayor: “Closing 1/2 of City Fire Stations Will Result In Much Better Fire Coverage.”

At Monday’s City Council meeting John Hieftje evidently wanted to make sure he understood exactly how deep in his own personal pile of horse manure he was standing. So, Hieftje pointedly asked the new Fire Chief, Chuck Hubbard (below), a 20-year member of the AAFD, “if the city would actually experience better service if it hired 30 more firefighters and increased staffing levels at each of the five stations.”

In April of 2011 Hieftje arrogantly told AnnArbor.com’s editorial board he “was comfortable” with the cuts made to police and the decimation of the fire services. He even went on to claim, “We’re getting some pretty good opinions that our initial response times probably won’t be affected on the fire side.”

AnnArbor.com’s editorial board predictably never checked Hieftje’s facts, or asked him from whom those “opinions” were being solicited. It’s a pity, because in December 2011, it was revealed in a long-awaited consultant’s report on the city’s fire services that Hieftje had once again lied to the public and used AnnArbor.com to do it. The consultant’s report revealed that Ann Arbor’s fire services did not come close to meeting national standards in terms of response times.

So when Hieftje asked Hubbard if more firefighters and equipment would lead to better service—no doubt hoping Hubbard would hem and haw—Hieftje looked stunned when Hubbard instead replied, “Absolutely.”

This was a different cast of characters than in 2010, when newly-hired Fire Chief Dom Lanza stood before Council.

On May 18, 2010, just a few weeks after being hired into the $108,000 per year position, Lanza stood before City Council, his own firefighters, and the Press and told a gigantic fairy tale for the benefit of Roger Fraser, the re-election campaigns of John Hieftje, Fourth Ward Council member Margie Teall, Fifth Ward Council member Carsten Hohnke and First Ward Council member Sandi Smith. And, of course, to protect his own professional hide.

John Hieftje posted AnnArbor.com’s repetition of Lanza’s deliberate fibs to his [Hieftje's] campaign web site to prove that laying off firefighters was no problemo, and that anyone who said so didn’t have the story right. In that May 18, 2010 AnnArbor.com piece, Lanza tells City Council that “the elimination of five positions in the fire department is manageable. He said fire stations will stay open, and the city still will be able to get at least four firefighters on the scene of a fire as quickly as it does today. Lanza also said the city would be able to put 18 firefighters on the scene of a working fire within eight minutes, maintaining the city’s insurance rating. He said it may take adjustments in the fire department’s administrative staff to accomplish that, but it can be done.”

On May 20, 2010, the firefighter’s union issued a refutation of Chief Lanza’s claims that fire safety would not be compromised by the loss of positions. Lt. Craig Ferris told AnnArbor.com, “We’re a substandard fire department right now. We want to get the right information out there. We can’t have someone stating things that aren’t true. When a person stands up in front of City Council and the mayor and says things that are that inaccurate, and in the end are leading to cuts in the fire department, we have to take a stand.”

Ferris and the union claimed that Lanza had misrepresented the facts to City Council and the public. In response, Lanza threatened Ferris with an “investigation” to determine whether the AAFD Lieutenant has broken any rules in speaking out to the press.

Then, Lanza decided he couldn’t take the heat and got out of the kitchen.

Less than one year after he’d taken the job, he handed in his resignation. Only then, did Dominick Lanza tell the truth. Months earlier, with the same number of fire fighters that Ann Arbor has now, Lanza claimed coverage was adequate, “manageable.” Then, in his March 18, 2011 letter, however, Lanza writes,

Current staffing levels are below nationally recognized standards and make the Ann Arbor Fire Department a “one-fire incident department,” Lanza writes. ”I urge you to move forward cautiously, pursue regional fire protection as a way to save and be more effective. Paid on-call and volunteer are not the answer. Your jobs are difficult but I implore you, be strong, make the right decisions, do not further undermine the effectiveness of your fire department.”

Not shockingly, neither Roger Fraser nor John Hieftje would talk to AnnArbor.com in response to Lanza’s tell-all. Never one to shy away from an opportunity to make herself look somewhat addled, First Ward Council member Sabra Briere was quoted by AnnArbor.com in response to Lanza’s admissions as saying, “I feel as if I’ve just been told the truth.”

It’s March 2012 and Chuck Hubbard is, in essence, repeating what Lanza said in his March 2011 letter to AnnArbor.com. Hubbard is repeating what Craig Ferris told AnnArbor.com in 2010.

First Ward Council member Sabra Briere (left)—who has made no secret of the fact that she wants to lead Ann Arbor as Mayor—demonstrated during Monday’s City Council meeting that she is just as dishonest, disingenuous and confused about the truth as Hieftje.

After Hubbard spoke before Council on March 12, 2012, Briere piped up and said she “recalled the city discussed the issue of fire response a couple of years ago and she remembers being told everything was OK. We were told that two people coming from Station 1 and two people coming from Station 3 could converge on the fire and everything would be covered.”

Briere recalled being told “Everything was OK?” In her dreams, maybe, but not in Council chambers.

The wanna-be city leader obviously forgot blabbing about her sudden epiphany in response to Lanza’s March 2011 confession to AnnArbor.com concerning substandard fire safety services:  (“I feel as if I’ve just been told the truth”). Oops.

For that matter, one has to wonder whether Sabra Briere wasn’t paying attention when AAFD union leaders stood before Council in May 2010 and told her that staffing levels were below national standards. Representatives told Council and the public that cuts were slowing response times and putting residents in danger. All of these assertions were confirmed in the embarrassing December 2011 consultant’s report on the city’s fire services.

At the March 12, 2012 City Council meeting, after Hubbard spoke, Briere asked if the information had changed or if the data Hubbard presented was just a different way of looking at the department’s staffing.

Hubbard replied, “The information hasn’t changed.”

Hubbard presented a plan to close fire stations in response to budget constraints imposed on the AAFD by City Council. He also very clearly stated the city should keep open all of its stations and hire 30 more firefighters to meet national staffing and response standards.

The latest absurdity from Hizzoner concerning his preference to funnel money to construction projects, multi-million dollar perks for city managers and generous retirement packages for city employees who work as few as five years, instead of rebuilding public safety services? Hieftje was quoted as claiming on Monday night: “It’s a little unusual because people think of closing stations as a diminished service, when actually this plan would give us better service to more areas of the city.”

Sabra Briere said nothing and nodded in agreement. 

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Short URL: http://www.a2politico.com/?p=13512

2 Comments for “Ann Arbor Mayor: “Closing 1/2 of City Fire Stations Will Result In Much Better Fire Coverage.””

  1. The FD needed to call back about 15 additional people.

    Before people say, “But that was a rare instance.” The FD also had to call people back for St. Patrick’s day due to the amount of calls.

  2. Question. With all the events today (weather, flooding, etc)…. did Ann Arbor have enough firefighters for the job?

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