KALAMAZOO TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kalamazoo Township Board of Trustees had a special meeting Wednesday concerning fire operations.
The lone agenda item, titled a “possible restructuring of public safety administration,” was expected to explore the possibility of consolidating the police and fire into one public safety department. Instead, a motion before the board dealt with who is going to be in charge permanently of the township fire department.
“The township board understands the need to get the fire department into a better situation than it has been for the last several months,” said township supervisor Donald Martin. “I believe that the way to do that is to address the leadership role within the department in a more permanent manner.”
This comes six months after former Fire Chief David Obreiter and former Battalion Chief Mike Mulac were fired due to sexual and ethnic harassment allegations.
“Prior to the terminations of the previous chief and battalion chief, the township board gave everyone an opportunity to speak regarding next steps,” Martin explained. “Since that time, there has been no movement by this board to reinstate the former fire chief and battalion chief, so we are trying to move on with a more permanent solution.”
Wednesday’s motion was for the township’s policy administration committee to commence contract negotiations with current Battalion Chief Jarius Baird, after board members say Mike Wiedemann, the deputy fire chief and acting chief, expressed no interest in the head role permanently.
“Under these emergent circumstances, this authorization supersedes all other policies, contracts and procedures that may be inconsistent with this action,” said township trustee Steven Leuty.
“We wish to thank Chief Weidemann for his service,” Martin added. “The township board recognizes the leadership situation at the fire department is critical at this time.”
On the condition that Baird is not chosen as chief, the township will seek other candidates.
The motion was passed unanimously.
A source within the township told News 8 if the contract talks fall through, anything is theoretically possible, including the possibility of police and fire consolidating into one public safety department.