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.