Firefighter resignations discussed

FLINT TWP. — The resignation of the third on-call firefighter this summer highlights internal problems that one Flint Township Board trustee is questioning as “systemic.”

David Kuczera, an on-call firefighter for 17 years, cited grievances similar to those given by the previous two who quit.

“I no longer support or understand the direction that this department is headed,’’ Kuczera said in his statement at the Aug. 20 board meeting. “I am quitting today because of the disrespectful treatment of members and the stopwatch tactics on the fire ground.”

In reference to current job postings seeking new on-call firefighters, Kuczera said that firefighters with ten or more years of service cannot be easily replaced.

“Hiring new recruits to put names on a roster line does not replace the knowledge and skills someone acquires after years on the job,’’ he said.

Jacob Hall, another long-time firefighter who resigned at the July 16 board meeting also cited adverse changes in management as his reason for leaving. Similarly, resignation letter in mid-June from Christa Shulters cited a list of grievances including safety, morale, personnel sanctions and limited work hours.

In response to what amounts to three resignations over the course of the last four board meetings, Trustee Frank Kasle repeated his call for an internal investigation, as expressed in a prepared statement he read at the July 16 board meeting. It was noted then that the roster of on-call firefighters had dwindled down to about 21 from a high of about 38, heightening concerns about public safety.

Fire Chief John Ringwelski concurred staffing was down for a variety of reasons but also assured that the department still maintains enough firefighters to adequately fight fires. The township also has 12 full-time firefighters.

Kasle said his concern was not only to beef up staffing but also to get at the root of the problem and fix it.

Questioning whether problems are “systemic” Kasle said: “There used to be an expression, something is rotten in Denmark. There is something going on in the last months or couple of years regarding on-call firemen that has created a very bad situation.

“I am not casting blame on anybody,” Kasle said. “ I think we need to sit down and talk about it.”

He asked Supervisor Karyn Miller to form a committee to analyze the situation and volunteered to serve on it.

Miller said she was not sure that a committee was necessary but would seek help from township labor attorney Steve Shultz, who has a great deal of insight on personnel negotiations and relationships. She said personnel issues should be addressed in-house through the personnel committee and would not be resolved by discussing them at the board meeting.

Ringwelski also said, in response to Kasle’s concerns, that he had met with on-call firefighters and asked them to poll members for a list of grievances. Other than a response from a union rep about payroll hours, Ringwelski said he had not received any response.

He also said that he has been receiving applications from people intereste in the posted on-call firefighter jobs.

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