78 Firefighters and 5 Stations – Muncie, Indiana

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Muncie Mayor Sharon McShurley has reached a decision with the Muncie Fire Department. The original plan was to lay-off 40 and close 3 stations. One which has already been closed. Very little action at the now vacated Mock Avenue firehouse and within a very close proximity to another station, Heekin, one wonders why the station was built in the first place. That is for another discussion.

Newly appointed fire chief, Sean Burcham said he would be unable to man 5 stations adequately with 40 less fewer men and women power. Mayor McShurley spent time with the controller who has given the mayor revised number regarding the pension costs of the laid off firefighters. With the new number crunching done, the mayor will only be dropping it down to 32. This news has pleased Chief Burcham and I believe it is more of a reasonable number of fire stations and firefighters.

I am very fond of the mayor and realize she has an extremely difficult job, but I also felt that 40 lay-offs may have been just a little to steep. I am in agreement with 5 stations, though. It appears to be adequate number for the size, population and all the other things that only Muncie seems to have, like railroad tracks and traffic.

Madam Mayor has said that with the change in staffing, the response time anywhere in the city will be an average of 5 minutes. This is 3 minutes below the response rate set by National Fire Protection Association standards.

The firefighters met and endorsed the CAC proposal that recommended consolidation with Center Township Fire Department (which I believe has 10 paid and somewhere around 30 volunteers) and a $75,000 buyout to any who wishes to retire early, limit of 10. The problem with this plan, is the money for the buyouts would need to be borrowed and it still won’t address the future, which is about 6 months away…2010! The members of the committee and those consulted were 2 Democratic elected officials, 1 union president, a fire fighter’s wife, all with strong emotional ties. Where the others stand politically, I haven’t a clue.  The consolidation sounds like a winner and the best idea.  Although it has been presented a time or two before.

The CAC seems a little perplexed as to why the mayor didn’t immediately take hold and run with the plan.  Just as many of us are a little perplexed as to why this proposal was given to the union before the mayor.  Still wondering why the budget was hammered out by Quirk, King and Whited on a saturday.  Add it to the other great mysteries of the world, I guess.

Public safety was told over a year ago that there will be a loss of revenue and be prepared to accept the budget challenge.  The mayor had asked the MFD to not fill any vacancies.  Mr. Whited, president of  Firefighters Local 1348 stated they only hired 2 or 3 firefighters in the past year.  The Star Press reported 12 were hired before McShurley took office.  I thought it was more like 7.  I remember asking a ff why the last hire in May of 08 was done when the real possibility of his lay-off come January ’09.  The response was, were hoping it doesn’t come to that.  Telling him I thought it would and we  paid for 6 month of training  just so the ff can get a job else where wasn’t the best way to managing dwindling resource.

Personally, many of us are sick and tired of the “Mayor has a vendetta against MFD” comment.  I guess she isn’t the only mayor after the fire departments since so many cities and mayors are doing the same.  Some think the world stops at the city limits and that Muncie is so unique no other city can be compared to her.  We do have a problem with corruption, maybe more than other cities our size…again, that’s another story.  Unique, no.

In closing, contrast this to the Muncie Police Department that found a savings of $850,000 (some reports vary slightly) and through attrition kept the employees below 100.  Yet, not a word of kudos is given, as if doing a good job is something to cause shame and ridicule.  Add to the savings, streamlining and modernization the department has undergone over the last year,  add another feather to their cap.  They are cleaning up the image that was a detriment to the whole department.

Good luck, Muncie.

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