New Saugatuck Township Fire Chief Making Changes
With new management comes new changes and so it is for the Saugatuck Township Fire District which serves the Tri-Community.
Fire Chief Greg Janik, who started in his new position last week has terminated the department’s controversial overnight shift and has also administered a “reorganization” of the fire department personnel.
Former Fire Chief Brian Florey had put into effect a mandatory 24- hour shift in which two fire d e p a r tment staff members would - seven days a week - stay at the station overnight to respond to calls.
Janik has eliminated that overnight rule, implementing a system in which a crew of three firefighters will respond from home, a duty officer will respond with a first response vehicle; and that officer’s assistants will fetch the fire trucks from the station.
“It was difficult for the department because our staff relies on pay on-call. In the interest of reducing cost, I have to go back to a system that works,” said Janik, adding the new system will not compromise service.
“We’ve done it before. It worked, and it worked well. This is not to discredit the 24-hour shift; if we could afford it, it would be great,” he said.
The on-call system is typical for a fire department of the size of the Saugatuck Township Fire District, and precisely because most of the staff live in close proximity, the department’s response time has averaged 6 ½ minutes in the past, said Janik.
“That puts us well under the national average (for response time),” he said.
Florey’s overnight policy rubbed some on staff the wrong way, particularly female staff members who have previously said they would have felt uncomfortable staying overnight, sleeping in an area adjacent to where male staff would be staying.
In terms of changes to personnel, Janik has cut two full-time firefighters/ medical first responders - Tim Hurtman and Lori Nash - while bringing a new member aboard, Doug Denbleyker who Janik appointed as his lieutenant.
Denbleyker comes from the Graafschap Fire Department where Janik was also previously employed as a trainer officer and fire inspector.
In other fire department business, the Saugatuck Township Fire District Board, at its Tuesday night meeting, approved the 2013/2014 budget which includes a hike on the fire levy for local taxpayers, going from 1.16 to 1.3 mills.
The millage increase is estimate to raise more than $638,000 and help balance the department’s budget, according to Saugatuck City Treasurer Pete Stanislawski, who assists the fire department in financial matters.