About Me

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I currently serve as the mayor of the City of Milan. I feel transparency and open government are important to a thriving democracy. I invite you to post questions or comments ---if you have any ideas about things you'd like me to discuss, relating to the City of Milan, this blog is a great place to exchange ideas. You must include your name, (first and last) and town to have your comments posted here.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

A New Milan Fire Department....MAYBE...if the city council supports the idea

Some residents of Milan may be surprised to learn that the City of Milan may withdraw from the Milan Area Fire Department.

Most citizens do not actually understand the MAFD.  In fact, it is "owned" by four governmental units, London Township, Milan Township, York Township, and the City of Milan.  Each of the "owners" send two representatives which comprise the MAFD Executive Board.  We sometimes call it the "Fire Board."

The representatives to the fire board must be elected officials.  For the City, that means the Mayor (me) and one city council member (Joe Chapin.)  For the townships, it means the township supervisor and one board member.  Once every two months, the eight people get together and decide how to run the MAFD.

Normally, it seems like a good idea to have cooperation between and among the governmental units.  However, for many years, taxpayers in the City of Milan have been spending too much on fire protection.  Yes, fire protection is extremely important.  At the same time, wise economic use of taxpayer funds is also valuable. Even more important than dollars though, is quality of service. Back in the 1980s when the MAFD was created, the size of our city was much smaller, and the service provided by the MAFD was adequate to our size. But our city has grown since then, and the needs of our community have grown too.

Over the years, the MAFD has gained a reputation for having too much bureaucracy and for being uneconomic. Financial decisions have been made based on what seems to feel good at the moment rather than taking a good look at what it costs for the type of service we receive.  Right now, the MAFD spends nearly $50,000 on salaries for a variety of officials such as the fire chief, assistant fire chief, and various lieutenants. The City of Milan would not spend taxpayer money on excessive numbers of officials.  Perhaps the police chief could serve as fire chief, at a cost of ZERO for the fire chief's salary.  There is no need for a series of assistant officers to lead the fire department. 

This is not just about dollars and cents though. This will also mean that our residents will receive a much higher quality of service. More information on this will be forthcoming in future blogs soon!
In all fairness, this issue has not been discussed formally at a city council work session. So far, all discussion and work on this concept has been between myself, city administrator Ben Swayze and councilman Joe Chapin, who is the other council representative on the MAFD. I intend to bring this item up for discussion at the Monday night council meeting, (March 22, 2010) to get council feedback.

If we were to officially withdraw from the MAFD, the Milan City Council would have to approve it through a vote in order to do so.

I do not have "all the answers" and the City Council has not officially approved this plan. Of one thing I am certain.  Change is going to provide us with economic efficiency.  It will save us substantial amounts of tax dollars and it will not affect our fire safety—except for the better.


  1. Ms. Muckler, I have a question for you. Where does your information about the MAFD having too much beuracracy and being uneconomic come from?
    For decades the Dept. has always donated their time for free, and it is only recently that it was decided that the officers who handle all the needed paperwork should be compensated for their extra time. These people take time away from their families to provide these services. And why did you make it sound as if the City of Milan was footing the entire bill to pay for the officer's salaries? If Milan has grown so much, why are you trying to SHRINK services?
    You honestly think that your police officers are going to eagerly take on NEW training and duties for not a penny more in salary? Have you surveyed the officer's to evaluate whether they are even comfortable doing what you are suggesting? My family has been on the fire department for the past 20 years or so. I know for a fact that they raise the funds needed to add equipment, train, and maintain their level of professionalism. I also know that for you to deem them as not being equal to professional public safety officials is a huge slap in the face. When you yourself have gone through the training and licensure examinations to be able to designate yourself as a fire fighter or EMT then you may call into question their skills and training. You obviously have NO IDEA the amount of ongoing training it takes to maintain their level of knowledge and skills. MAFD and as a matter of fact ALL fire/EMS departments are no longer running horse and buggies with water buckets. I would truly enjoy seeing YOU try to run codes, AEDs, do CPR, how about crawling inside a smoking car to try and remove a badly injured passenger? I also find it amusing that there are NO comments posted on your blog about this issue. Is this because there are no positive responses to your suggestions? Why don't you post ALL the comments and not censor them?

    Dawn M. Early
    (Former Milan Twp resident)
    Dundee, MI

  2. Dear Ms. Early,
    I am certainly not proposing getting rid of the paid on-call firefighters. That was never said in either one of my blog posts discussing this idea. I'm proposing that the paid on-call firefighters continue doing what they do--continue going out and providing fire protection to the same areas they currently do, but under the City of Milan now instead of the MAFD. The only change the guys would see, is a different looking paycheck--no one, not me, nor anyone on the city council has ever suggested getting rid of the paid on-call firefighters.
    I am suggesting we also, enhance the fire protection provided by the paid on-call firefighters, with our own first responder public safety officers. They can get to a scene faster than HVA or the firefighters. But that's just a logistical issue---the firefighters can't go on a run until four of them report to the station--while they are assembling, the first responders could be there, assessing the scene for the firefighters. There is no way I'd ever suggest making our police officers become firefighters. I'm suggesting making our police officers, "first responders." This is not shrinking the department, it is actually enhancing it and making it an even better service than it is now---and it wouldn't work without the guys who are currently our paid on-call firefighters.
    Please come to our Milan City Council worksession at 6:30 p.m. this Monday, at Milan City Hall. I'm hoping to be able to address a lot of the concerns and fears. And please remember, this is just an idea at the moment. Nobody has done anything right now except talk about it.

  3. The Milan firefighters have served Milan well for years. Ms. Muckler again you are way off base on thisand many items.
    Like why in the world waste money on paving the steets in riverside sub.

    Stop this insanity and save the fire dept
    Mark W. Trimm

  4. "Maybe if the city council agrees"?...what about the citizens of Milan? Not ONE person who got up and spoke at the council meeting agreed with this idea...you kept saying it was an exploratory move, yet when a council member suggests drawing up a letter, you began actually speaking of SENDING it...remember, your words asking if "once sent the withdrawal could be withdrawn"!! What sense does that make? "Putting the cart before the horse?" I think that move is right where you intended it to be!! "Blindsided"?...that's exactly what you'd hoped to do...thankfully the council members aren't following this action blindly as they've done in the past...your grandstand move to ask the fire chief to join the committee to 'explore' the information as it arrives means nothing when in your blog you mention replacing him with the police chief at less cost...Once again, your motives are clear, transparecy? Yep, I can see right through you. I know this won't make to the blog so as with all our correspondences, I've copied it...

  5. I am sincerely interested in holding a rational debate on public policy without personal attacks. I urge all of you, to ask me first, "what did you mean by....?" before jumping to an unfair conclusion and assumption about me personally.
    This is a very emotional issue, and meanness for the sake of meanness is not going to get any of us anywhere. Let's all try to get along with each other and understand each other better. The bottom line is each and every one of us, those of you who disagree with me, and those who want more information, and those who support this idea--all of us want what is best for our community.
    Active discourse and disagreement is how democracy is supposed to work--let's all be, (myself included) good examples to our children when it comes to debating this very sensitive issue on public policy.

  6. Mayor Muckler,
    What did you mean by "The City of Milan would not spend taxpayer money on excessive numbers of officials. Perhaps the police chief could serve as fire chief, at a cost of ZERO for the fire chief's salary. There is no need for a series of assistant officers to lead the fire department."

    Forgive me, but it seems that you are talking about getting rid of either the 'officials' rank or the officials themselves, not sure which. Clearly, your suggestion to replace the fire chief by adding his responsibilities onto the chief of police's dutys, (without pay), suggests the same!
    Yet during the council meeting, as well as in the most recent post on your blog, you say that removing firefighters is not your intent?...doesn't make sense to me!
    In my post above I had questions...you had the opportunity to answer me...Instead you opt to ignore them and invite 'debate'...I thought that was what I was doing?..."meanness for the sake of meanness"?...I am not a mean person, I just take offense to being lied to and ignored by people who should be doing otherwise. Respect is earned and you've got a ways to go before ya get mine!!

    I am proud of my children, all of them...the example I set is without question! I AM a good example.

  7. I used the word "perhaps" as in, 'perhaps the police chief could do it,' and that was just an idea.
    There is a model called, "administrative public safety," which would mean that there would be one director overseeing the police and fire, with 1 fire chief and 1 police chief.
    When I said we would get rid of ranks or officials---that is coming from my point of view of our police department, which is a 24/7 operation. We have 1 chief, and 2 sergeants.
    While I know there is a big difference between police and fire--they are both paramilitary organizations, and we manage ours without the need for all of those ranks. It didn't seem unreasonable to believe that under the management of the city--it would be possible to manage the fire department with less ranking officers--and it still may not be unreasonable, but then again it might.
    After talking to Debbie Sudduth about this, because she asked me the same questions that you asked--she explained to me that its because there are about 32 firefighters and with that much more staff there could be a need for that many ranking officers. We are at the very beginning of this issue--and do not have all of the answers yet. The purpose of my advisory committee is to bounce these kinds of ideas off of them and to get their valuable input. Debbie helped me understand that issue better; and it also made me realize that I should have asked Chief Stevens to be involved. So I did, and I look forward to his help.
    I'm sure over the next few weeks people are going to hear all sorts of ideas for us to look at. Because we back away from one idea and move on to another is not dishonest.
    I have not suggested "firing" anyone. I HAVE suggested redefining their positions. Suggested. I also said, "perhaps."
    This entire process was started in the public venue--and is taking place in the public venue. If we already had a plan in place with numbers and a signed letter to withdraw, and nobody knew we were planning it--then THAT would be the definition of "blindsiding" the public and a huge violation of the Open Meetings Act. But we opened this discussion in full public view.

  8. Mayor Muckler,
    Again your words are puzzling,

    "This is not about dollars and cents though. This will also mean our residents will get a much higher quality of service." and "It will save us substantial amounts of tax dollars and it will not affect our fire safety—except for the better."
    First, how can we receive a higher quality of service and this change affect our fire safety "for the better"...when we already have the BEST?!!

    And if it's not about the money, then what is it? One of the three who were "in on" this idea from the begining, Joe Chapin, said outright at the council meeting, this is a tax issue...it IS about the money...it seems that not only will your idea inevitably cost MORE money; but more importantly, it ultimately could cost LIVES...I've heard from several people that if this change takes place, our home insurance WILL increase!!

  9. This is about all of those things--and what's driving it, is we know that London Twp. has already formed their exploration committee to withdraw from the MAFD (formed more than a month before we initiated our discussion on this) and explore other fire protection options. This is in their minutes. We also know that for quite some time York Twp., has been leaning more towards the Saline FD--just a few years ago York reconfigured the MAFD's coverage area and gave it to the Saline FD, without the MAFD Board approval--that was a very concerning indicator which financially negatively impacted the MAFD. We must protect our own interests and not be left unprepared.
    I did not intentionally disrespect the firefighters--I am very concerned that one or two of the MAFD entities will withdraw before we do, and we will be left with fewer options. While in the process of preparing ourselves we are looking at ways to improve on what is already there.
    We are also concerned about the ISO rating, and are discussing it with the city's insurance carrier--so far we are being assured that if the city forms its own fire dept, our city resident's insurance rates will either stay the same or actually go down. These ratings are based on your distance away from the fire station, (that's the most important factor among many factors.)
    I do wish I had asked Bob Stevens to help us earlier in the game--and really, the committee is still being formed and he has not missed out on anything.

  10. Verbage is very, very important and it seems obvious Ms. MuckleR will not call our volunteer firefighters "VOLUNTEERS"....WHY? Whats with the on call paid firefighters? It seems demeaning not to refer to our firefighters as "VOLUNTEERS" who receive a stipend for what they do.
    The excellent police officers are not volunteers, neither is the city manager or office staff, they are full time paid employees.
    IN AMERICA "Volunteering" to put ones life on the line for a small stipend (many would do it for free) is considered by most to be much more admirable and noble than being a full time paid employee. Don't denigrate our highly respected "VOLUTEERS" by calling them on call paid employees.

  11. WHY DO you insist on calling them paid on call firefighters as opposed to "Volunteer's"

    Certainly you of all people know the power of the written word. Hence you must know that calling our "VOLUTEER" firefighters, paid on call employees is denigrating at best, and intentionally misleading at worst In America being a volunteer is considered much more noble than being a paid employee, when it comes to most everything, including putting ones life on the line. The small stipend they receive for turning out at all hours of the night and putting their lives on the line, should most definitely not make them "paid" employees.

  12. Hi Mr. Trimm,
    I refer to our firefighters as paid on-call firefighters because according to section 10.1 of the Milan Area Fire Department intergovernmental agreement that is their official, legal title.

  13. IMHO, paid on call is a more accurate assessment of our firefighters. I hope this doesn't offend any of them, as that certainly is not my intent! However, the stipend they receive is 'decent' from what I've been told. Now mind you, it is in NO way sufficient wage to support a family, nor is it in any way worth putting one's life on the line in helping others. However, NO AMOUNT of money is worth that risk...that is what makes our firefighters special...they take a risk that there is no way to thank them enough...however, technically, they do not "volunteer" their time. They are paid for their time and none that I'm aware of have ever opted not to come when needed...thus, "paid, on call" seems to cover it...

  14. “the firefighters can't go on a run until four of them report to the station”

    This is not accurate…the MAFD can and often does respond to non-fire related emergencies with only 2 responders. It is preferred practice to have more man power in the event of cardiac arrest or other high energy emergency that requires a great deal of metal stress and physical exertion.

    This CAN be done with as few as 2 people effectively.

    My concern is what happens when your police/public safety officers respond to a cardiac emergency, and an assault or home invasion call comes in? The City of Milan is often lucky to have 2 officers working the road at the same time. I for one would not want a single responder to work a “full code CPR” let alone also be concerned about a domestic disturbance 2 miles away.

    To effectively operate a public safety department in this fashion for the City of Milan, we would have to hire more full time Police officers, purchase new vehicles to carry needed medical equipment like back boards, and pay for hundreds of hours of additional training per year.

    “When I said we would get rid of ranks or officials---that is coming from my point of view of our police department, which is a 24/7 operation. We have 1 chief, and 2 sergeants.”

    This is true…but the Department of Homeland Security has created a National Incident Command System that states the span of control for any one person (the number of people able to be “managed” effectively by one person) is between 3 and 7.

    The standard fire ground incident (any fire) requires the use of no less than 6 fire fighters…1 driver/operator, 1 incident commander, 2 fire attack/search & rescue and 2 rapid intervenyion personal. This does not include ventilation, fatigue, property conservation, setting up a hydrant or anything other than the VERY basics.

    The MAFD currently employs approximately 33 firefighters. This includes 1 chief, 1 assistant chief, 1 captain, 2 lieutenants and 28+ firefighters. 28 divided by 5 is 5.6 firefighters per officer. A reduction of officers would limit the effectiveness of the fire response and needlessly endanger the lives of our firefighters.

    Another concern I have about this plan is the ISO rating applied by the insurance company. Any division of the MAFD could well result in a reduction of effective fire prevention having a dramatic effect on the cost of insurance for everyone that lives in the coverage area.

    It has been suggested that the “new FD” would only need 1 truck and that “mutual aid” could be called in from Pittsfield Twp or Saline. The problem with this is the concept of “mutual”…the “City of Milan” not be capable of reciprocating. This would cost Milan.
    If the Mayor is truly serious about improving the level of fire protection and emergency response within the City of Milan and/or the surrounding area…the solution will not come from reducing the MAFD.

    If the residents of Milan truly wish to “enhance the fire protection” and have a higher standard of emergency response…the solution would be to move the debate from “Volunteer/paid-on call” to “full time”.

    A full time fire department consisting of 2 full time firefighters and 1 full time fire chief (as is done by many FD’s in the area) would be able to reduce response times, provide a higher level of emergency medical care, a more definitive repose to fire scene (by getting “eyes on” sooner), a more rapid extrication of persons trapped in their vehicles as well as a higher level of fire protection by conducting “fire inspections” within the City of Milan and surrounding areas as well as additional public safety duties in conjunction with the Milan.

    Most calls run by the MAFD are medical in nature…this requires only 2 people to effectively handle in the field in most instances. Having a full time fire department would reduce the risk to public safety by reducing the number of emergency vehicles responding, would increase the speed of trained responders, and may even save money on payroll.

  15. In addition to my previous post…

    The MAFD could (and has suggested) a “cost recovery” system be implemented to help offset any additional costs incurred by becoming a full time department.

    This would mean that all non-residents of the area covered by the MAFD would be charged for service based on a national standard cost recovery model.

    Those persons that DO reside within the area already pay for these services via taxes.

  16. Hi Alex,
    Your points are well taken. Our citizens advisory committee is meeting next Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at city hall--I will add your points to the discussion. As far as the public safety concerns--speaking for myself only--I no longer like the "full" public safety model. I would like to do something called, "administrative public safety" which means the fire and police would still be separate entities, with their own respective chiefs, but there would be a dept head overseeing both. Again--speaking for myself only; it seems possible to keep the fire service almost exactly the same as it is currently, only under the ownership of the city of Milan. Your cost recovery comments are well taken--will include in the meeting. The MAFD is a category II dept., so currently they should not be dispatched for non-life threatening calls. Thanks for the food for thought.