Traverse City Commissioners were met with a full house at Monday evenings meeting.
Traverse City Firefighters showed up in numbers after the city manager unveiled an early draft of the city’s budget for the fiscal year of 2022-2023. The budget left out three additional firefighter positions suggested by the Fire Chief Jim Tuller.
Traverse City Firefighters Local Union 646’s President Jacob Steichen says they need more personnel in order to meet the demand.
“We looked at these three positions as a stopgap so they wouldn’t have a tragedy this summer. We foresee a tragedy this summer,” Steichen proclaims. “We do need solutions. We are at this point, strangulated by the lack of action. we need action. We need this commission to give us some relief so that we can go to work and do what we can.”
The fire department has seen a decrease in personnel consistently over recent years. Last week station 2 was closed due to the lack of personnel. Firefighter Ken Funk says the shortage has made the city increasingly unsafe.
“You have the ability to correct this dangerous path that we’re currently traveling down for the safety of my family, your families. For every visitor, tourist and person traveling through our city limits, we need you to make this right,” Funk says.
Traverse City Firefighters have had to not only take on the roll of firefighter, but EMT as well. Traverse City’s Mayor, Richard Lewis, says he understands their struggles. He says the whole purpose of this budget proposal is to hear from the public to ensure they get it right.
“We’re here to figure out what we need to do or should be doing,” Mayor Lewis admits. “We’ve got to get into it because we need to know more.”
People of Traverse City also showed up to show their support for their firefighters. A nurse at Munson and wife of a Traverse City Firefighter says the city needs more first responders.
“We know that this has been long overdue. We obviously have the budget to do it. I implore you to please look at this. Look at your neighbors. Look within yourselves and please wrap this up. This has gone on far too long,” she says.
Commissioners will have more discussions on the budget in the coming weeks. The budget won’t take effect until July.