Baldwin Fire Dept. Firefighters May Not Get Paid, Says Village Council

“Integrity is something that you’ll find in the fire service,” says Martin Walker, Baldwin fire chief. “Apparently, not in politicians.”

Confusion and anger rises from a local fire department after learning pay for an entire year of service may never come.

The Baldwin Fire Department says they get paid once a year and that was supposed to be Thursday.

The village council says the department is discontinuing their contract to pursue another in a different township.

Tensions have risen.

“One of my firefighters called to check on paychecks and the village clerk told him that they were told, they were advised not to pay the firefighters this year,” Walker says.

There are 26 firefighters, all with the possibility of no pay.

“That’s money that we’ve already earned and it’s not a whole lot of money,” Walker says. “That check goes and buys their Christmas gifts, literally.”

“There has been no decision made not to pay the firefighters,” says Jim Truxton, Baldwin Village president. “Were they expecting checks this week to go out and spend for Christmas? Yes and it is unfortunate but the village didn’t cause this problem.”

Truxton says there are several problems.

“With the department going dark, there’s still a lot of village-owned equipment out and unaccounted for,” Truxton says. “We had budgeted, anticipating at least $96,000 of tax revenues from the township. The revenue simply hasn’t happened.”

“It really disheartens me that a group of individuals as the village council can sit there and just readily disregard pay to somebody,” says Kevin Braddy, deputy chief at Baldwin Fire Department and chairperson of the Pleasant Plains Township Fire Department Development Committee.

The department — along Braddy– says that inventory is, in fact, accounted for and a brand new department is in the works in Pleasant Plains Township.

“We’re getting wildland gear from departments,” Braddy says. “We’re getting a cascade breathing system from a department. City of Kalamazoo donated 25 MSA air packs that they just took out of service because they jumped up to the next, newer model. We’ve got a department, Wheatland Township, who is donating turnout gear that we’ll be able to use.”

“Pleasant Plains is acquiring new equipment,” Walker says. “None of the equipment is going to be transferred over, according to the village. They are hanging onto all of that equipment.”

Braddy says…

“Things are really falling into place,” Braddy says. “You just can’t imagine the support we are getting from neighboring chiefs. We’ve got a building that will be able to house at least two trucks in with heat come January 1  when we’ve got to be in business and we are well on our way to building a 40-by-40 pole barn that will house four trucks.”

Although the call came Thursday morning, Walker and his crew say they still responding, in force, during another incident that happened Thursday.

“We’re going to provide for our community, come Hell or high water,” Braddy says. “We’re going run out in the middle of the night whether we are getting paid or not.”

“The family, the guys and gals will still be the same people showing up to your house to save you and do what we can,” Walker says.

“It is their decision,” Truxton says. “I don’t dispute their right to make that decision. But I believe this is just the first of a lot of unintended consequences.”

Chief Walker says the new department will be operational before the end of the year.

A public meeting about it all at 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 18 at the Baldwin Business Center.