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Grand Traverse Rural Fire Chief Resigns Amid Budget Frustrations

Promo Image: Grand Traverse Rural Fire Chief Resigns Amid Budget Frustrations

A fire chief rejecting a pay cut and resigning on the spot.

All over budget frustrations for a local fire department.

The Grand Traverse Rural Fire board met Wednesday to try and balance the budget for 2017.

A big challenge after two of the seven townships left the agency.

Green Lake Township voted to leave Rural Fire two weeks ago.

Blair Township, Grant Township and Long Lake Township have already left the department.

Rural Fire hired a consultant to help get them back on track before 2017.

Wednesday night, they debated several options to achieve that, including cutting the salary of Grand Traverse Rural Fire Chief, Theo Weber.

Weber rejected that plan and resigned, effective December 31.

9&10’s Megan Atwood has continuing coverage on the impact of Wednesday night’s decision.

“My career has been dedicated to bringing the very best emergency services possible to the citizens I serve,” says Grand Traverse Rural Fire Chief, Theo Weber. “Additionally, I cannot morally or ethically participate in the destruction of the rural fire system.”

Final words from Grand Traverse Rural Fire Chief Theo Weber as he resigns amidst budget woes.

Now that four townships have pulled out from Rural Fire, the board has been battling a struggling budget for 2017.

“We are working within the budget constraints and to still provide staff but keeping in mind that we probably can’t pay out as much as we have in past years because of the budget cuts,” says Linda Forwerck, Grand Traverse Rural Fire Department Chair.

To make up the difference, the board approved adding $52,000 to their budget.

They will have to pull $200,000 to make that happen.

“Those were recommendations from the consultant that we just recently hired that we begin to look at adding certain labor forces to the department to assist the chief with his duties,” says Ron Popp, Whitewater Township Supervisor.

That additional money will allow space for a recruitment position.

But it’ll use money from their savings.

“We will be using some fund balance,” says Popp. “And the reason you have fund balance is to get you through the rainy days. It’s a cushion to get us through a tight spot.”

Brooke Osberg says she’s concerned about response time after watching her neighbors home go up in flames.

“We have a long driveway and we’re kind of out in the country area so it’s very important to me that they’ll be out here very quick,” says Grant Township Homeowner, Brooke Osberg.

The fire board will begin its search for a new fire chief, and work to implement the recommendations.