The Traverse Town Commissioners packed the Monday night meeting.
Traverse City firefighters showed up in droves after the city manager unveiled a first draft of the city’s budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year. The budget left out three additional fire stations suggested by Fire Chief Jim Tuller.
Traverse City Fire Department Local 646 President Jacob Steichen said they need more staff to keep up with demand.
“We considered these three positions as a stopgap so that they did not have a tragedy this summer. We foresee a tragedy this summer,” Steichen proclaims. “We need solutions. We are at this point, strangled by the lack of action. we need action. We need this commission to relieve us so we can go to work and do what we can.
The fire department has experienced a steady decrease in personnel over the past few years. Last week Station 2 was closed due to lack of staff. Firefighter Ken Funk says the shortage has made the city increasingly dangerous.
“You have the ability to correct this dangerous path that we are currently on for the safety of my family, your families. For every visitor, tourist, and person traveling within our city limits, we need you to make it right,” says Funk.
The Traverse City firefighters not only had to take on the role of firefighter, but also EMT. Traverse City Mayor Richard Lewis says he understands their struggles. He says the purpose of this budget proposal is to hear from the public to make sure it gets it right.
“We are here to determine what we have to do or should do,” admits Mayor Lewis. “We have to get started because we need to know more.”
Residents of Traverse City also showed up to show their support for their firefighters. A nurse in Munson and wife of a Traverse City firefighter says the city needs more first responders.
“We know this is long overdue. We obviously have the budget to do so. I implore you to please watch this. Look at your neighbors. Look within and please close this. It has gone on too long,” she said.
Commissioners will have further budget discussions in the coming weeks. The budget will only come into force in July.