City resumes fire department medical runs, council split over decision

DAVISON — For the first time since Jan. 15, 2020, the Davison-Richfield Fire Department is again making medical runs in the city of Davison.

Fire Chief Brian Flewelling came before the city council for the third time in more than a year to ask the council to reconsider its Dec. 9, 2019 decision ending medical runs in the city because of rising costs that put the city’s budget in the red that year.

New dispatching policies by Genesee County 911 and three new council members were enough to tip the scales in favor of returning to medical calls.

New councilmembers Corey Clark, Stacey Kalisz and Jaime Stebbins, along with Councilwoman Jessica Abraham voted in favor of returning to medical runs in the city, despite opposition by the other three council members.

Flewelling came to the council with a report showing under new dispatching policies at 911, medical runs would be lowered to between 24-37 runs in 2021.

He said the fact ambulance companies are now basing rigs in Davison would also cutback the need for the fire department to be dispatched on medical runs.

“We’re well within the budgeted amount,” said Flewelling. “The funding is there.”

Flewelling’s report, showing fire department medical run numbers would be down considerably from 2019 not only in the city, but also showed numbers were down in Davison and Richfield townships, prompted Clark to make a motion to resume medical runs.

That motion was seconded by Abraham, which sparked debate amongst the council about how the city would afford medical runs when taxpayers have twice rejected public safety millage requests.

“How are we going to pay for it?” Councilman Ron Emery said. “The original motion to end medical runs was based on budgetary concerns, we didn’t have enough money to make those runs and we were going broke big time.”

Emery said since the 2019 decision, residents have told him they support the end of medical runs and he said he’s hasn’t “heard one negative comment, except in this room.”

He added the city is in the middle of its budgetary process, a new fiscal year starting July 1, and there are plans to possibly use the $75,000 in the budget being looked at to fund medical runs for the hiring of a new full-time police officer.

“I think it’s the wrong thing to do at this time,” said Emery. “I have a hard time with snap decisions. I’d like to see it discussed more.”

Flewelling offered assurances the current way 911 dispatches medical runs has taken what were a projected 150 runs in 2019-2020, before changes were made in dispatching, to 40 runs projected for this year.

Councilman Chris Hinkley echoed Emery’s comment saying he wanted to see Flewelling’s report and take time to study it before making a decision.

“I’d like to put more thought into it before I make the decision,” he said.

Stebbins, however, said she’d heard enough and was “uncomfortable” with the fact medical runs had been ended in the city.

“I felt Mr. Emery’s concerns had been addressed,” she said. “Personally, I’m appalled we don’t do medical runs in the city.”

Abraham said she also did not think it was a rash decision to return to medical runs after hearing Flewelling’s reports for the past year.

“(Flewelling) comes here every three months and asks for a return to medical runs and we keep moving the goalpost,” she said. “There have been zero attempts to look at financing this. Many people don’t know we don’t do medical runs.”

Abraham also related her own personal story of how the Davison-Richfield Fire Department came to the aid of her son when he was choking and rendered life-saving aid to him when it would have taken an ambulance longer to reach her home.

Mayor Tim Bishop said he was “struggling allowing this motion” because of proper procedure and the fact issues with the fire authority agreement, which needs to be updated and rewritten after 50 years, could mean the fire department isn’t supposed to run medical calls at all.

During debate over returning to medical runs in 2020, the fact the fire authority agreement – signed by all three municipalities – says the fire department ‘will not include ambulance or medical calls” also became an issue.

While the fire authority formed a committee to look at the wording and discuss a possible rewrite of the document, that committee has never met and there has been no discussion on the verbiage.

Flewelling said a legal opinion by city attorneys from the Plunkett & Cooney law firm said the phrase in question simply means the municipalities decide whether the fire department makes medical runs in their community – not the fire authority itself.

“We’ve run medical runs for 30 years and it’s never been an issue,” said Flewelling. “The authority agreement, as a whole, needs to be updated, it’s 50 years old. I don’t think our two townships would continue (medical runs) if it was illegal.”

Stebbins added she thinks the council should stop “kicking this further down the road” citing the safety of the people in the community who voted the councilmembers into their positions.

“Tomorrow we may need these medical runs, people will need these medical runs,” she said. “We can approve this now with review down the line.”

Clark said he thinks his motion was fair and it gives the matter the attention it deserves. But he added his thinks the city should put another safety millage on the ballot in 2022 and work as actively as the law allows for elected officials to get out and educate the public.

With passage of the motion, the fire department was to immediately resume city medical runs, with Flewelling contacting all the agencies who needed to be notified.