WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) - The flap over firefighters in the city of Wyoming heated up Monday night as a group of citizens called for city manager Curtis Holt to resign.
Holt has received criticism for turning down roughly $1 million in federal grant money that would have added six firefighters to the city's short-handed department.
Almost everyone at the city council meeting, including council members, acknowledged there is a need for more firefighters in the city. But at the same time, the majority of residents stood up in support of the city manager.
"He's as honest and truthful of a city manager as I have had to work with," said resident Ron Dressander.
"Where have all these people been to tell us about all these griefs they have?" demanded resident Lillian VanderVeen.
One by one, people expressed their support for Holt, including fire chief Robert Austin.
"I would like to start out by expressing my support for city manager Curtis Holt," said Austin.
But words wont solve staffing levels: That takes money. Many, including the Michigan Professional Firefighters Union, say Holt should have jumped at the opportunity to take the about $1 million Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) federal grant issued by Federal Emergency Management to add six firefighters for at least two years.
"You take somebody off the streets right now that doesn't have a job, you think they would take a job for two years? I think they would," said Shaun Abbey of the Michigan Professional Firefighters Union.
But in the third year, the City would have to pick up the tab at a cost Holt says it can't afford.
"But in the end, we might have to lay them off and I think that's irresponsible on our part," Holt said.
Resident Catherine Kooyers said she thinks Holt should have taken the money, and would also like to see the shuttered Gezan Parkway Station No. 3 on the south side re-opened. She was among those calling for Holt to resign.
"The more we look into the work that he's doing, we're finding a basic lack of accountability and problems in systems that should not be problems," said Kooyers.
Staffing levels at the Wyoming Fire Department sit at just 22 full-time and 30 paid on-call firefighters. Firefighter families say they need more help.
"I truly don't think it's just about money. It's about the safety of Wyoming," said Rebecca Royce, the wife of a Wyoming firefighter.
Holt, who said he has no plans to step down, said he is deeply moved by the support he received Monday, and that he keeps the safety of citizens and firefighters at the forefront.
To improve staffing levels, Holt is considering consolidation and making a Wyoming department of public safety, in which police and firefighters are cross-trained to do both jobs.
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