Metro Fire Department board agrees to talk merger with city

New changes to a state law have Traverse City Commissioners looking at another option when it comes to solving its financial situation with the fire department.

The city emailed a memo over to the Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department late Monday asking them if they would consider meeting to discuss a merger. It's the latest idea in an attempt to cut costs.

City fire services make up 19% of the general budget costing about $2.5 million dollars a year.

The Metro Fire Department board discussed the request Tuesday morning and decided a three member committee would meet with the city.

In the past, Metro hasnâ??t been interested in partnering with the city fire department because of a state law requiring them to also absorb the city's firefighter union. In December, Governor Rick Snyder signed changes to the law to make it easier for municipal services to collaborate.

Grand Traverse Metro Fire Chief Pat Parker says they're willing to hear what the city has in mind.

Chief Parker says, "First you have to look at what it's going to cost. By taking on another partner is it gonna cost us more than what we're paying? Also we have to look at leadership, can we handle 30%-40% more runs, more employees, more stations?"

The news is frustrating for the 24 city firefighters who stand to lose their jobs.

Chad Rueckert, vice president of the city's firefighter union says, "We came up with ideas to generate a lot of money. The city doesn't think its good enough, and they won't give us an exact amount of money they want to save."

Several weeks ago the union generated a plan to bring in more than $200,000 in revenue by providing ambulance transport services. The idea was shot down by city manager Ben Bifoss. While this all plays out, Metro Fire Chief Pat Parker finds himself in the middle.

Chief Parkers says, "We work closely with the Traverse City Fire Department. You get close to those guys. I understand what they're going through and I understand what the city is going though with the budget. I don't want this to be fire department versus fire department"

If there is a merger with Metro, commissioners could make that decision without putting it on the ballot for voters to decide.