FLINT TWP. — After some debate, the township board voted 5-2 to extend the contracts for the police and fire chiefs and controller until the end of the year.
Contracts for the fire and police chief expired Nov. 20 but the board approved a three-month extension.
Township Supervisor Karyn Miller said the personnel committee has been working on the new contracts but recommended the extension to allow time to settle labor union negotiations.
For example, in the last collective bargaining agreement, all unionized employees agreed to pay five percent of health care costs. With a budget deficit looming, more concessions are likely being sought and the police chief and fire chief have agreed to whatever terms are reached for other employees.
“What is done for one is done for others,’’ Miller said.
Contract extensions for Police Chief George Sippert and controller Beth Takacs were not an issue but the debate centered on Fire Chief John Ringwelski.
Trustee Frank Kasle, who voted against the extension, commented on the amount of dissension in the fire department in recent years. Several unhappy, long-time on-call firefighters quit last year and those remaining have sent a list of grievances to the board or appeared in person to complain.
“A lot of them are unhappy,” Kasle said. “I view this as not a good situation. I am not saying the chief is to blame … but this is an unhappy situation and it seems to me inappropriate to have a one-year contract extension.”
He suggested that a three-month extension might be more appropriate until the fire department tensions are resolved.
Kasle’s motion to consider each contract extension separately was defeated by a 5-2 vote.
Trustee George Menoutes, who also voted against the 10-month contract extension, asked Ringwelski what the board could do to help mend problems in the department.
“It’s bad to have unhappy employees because they are not going to be productive,’’ he said, also adding that he is not blaming the fire chief but trying to fix what’s wrong.
Miller said that fire department grievances were being handled through the appropriate channels including the labor attorney and personnel committee.