Muskegon and Muskegon Heights discuss fire department merger

Posted at 4:15 PM, Jun 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-05 16:15:18-04

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. -- On Monday evening, the Muskegon Heights fire chief and city manager walked the City Council through the particulars of a proposed merger with the Muskegon Fire Department.

Muskegon Heights City Manager, Jake Eckholm told FOX 17 Muskegon City Manager, Frank Peterson approached him last October about contracting fire services from Muskegon Heights. Under the merger, the combined departments would operate under the new title, The Muskegon Heights Metro Fire Department.

If the proposal goes through, the department would have about 65 employees. Officials say Muskegon Firefighters can apply for new entry level positions at the new fire department, but they would lose their seniority and retirement benefits.

FOX 17 has been reporting on the possible merger since January, when Muskegon firefighters voiced frustrations about the rising amount of calls and a shrinking staff.

Following Monday's meeting, Muskegon Heights Fire Chief, Christopher Dean said he thought the discussion was productive and that the City Council responded positively to the proposal.

“I feel they accepted it well and they asked the right questions to be responsible to the citizens of the city of Muskegon Heights and to the city that we may provide services to,” said Chief Dean.

However, not everyone was sold on the proposal. The firefighters union with Muskegon says they need more time to review the language.

"It leaves a lot of questions still. I haven’t seen the written proposal I just heard the presentation tonight,” said Chris Drake, the President of Muskegon Firefighters Union Local 370.  “You want to go through the whole document, look it over, read it and figure out what’s going on so that’s what we’ll do.”

No vote was taken on Monday.  The proposal is expected to be voted on at the next Muskegon Heights City Council meeting later this month. After that, it will go to the Muskegon City Council where they will review it and potentially alter the plan.

If the merger gets approval from both councils, it's expected to go into effect at the beginning of 2019.