Warren council cancels payment for cadet programs – Macomb Daily
Warren City Council voted to withhold payments of $93,450 to Macomb Community College and $32,587 to Dorsey College for fire cadet training because officials say they did not approve the cadet program or its financing.
Councilman Garry Watts introduced the motion to refuse payment of the bills at the regular council meeting on April 26. Watts introduced himself as a strong supporter of police and fire services and says he is not against a cadet program, but believes it is necessary to emphasize proper procedure.
“I fully support the fire department, but I have a problem with the city’s charter violation,” Watts said. “They have to follow the budget and come to us with a credit application and a plan.”
The fire cadet program was part of the contract with Warren Professional Firefighters Local 1383, which was ratified by union members and approved by city council in December. The addition of the cadet program is part of a plan to fill long-standing vacancies within the department and give Commissioner Wilbert “Skip” McAdams a means to recruit and retain employees.
He credits the cadet program with being able to fill 18 vacancies in the department by the end of May and bringing his department to full capacity for the first time in six years. Having a fully staffed department will also reduce the problem of firefighters working excessive overtime. McAdams said unionized firefighters in his department logged $3 million in overtime last year.
Board secretary Mindy Moore and McAdams agree the cadet program was requested by the fire department in last year’s budget, but was denied by the board. The Board directed McAdams to return with a more detailed plan for the program and to request an allocation of funds at that time.
McAdams does not deny that 30 cadets were enrolled in classes last October while union contract negotiations were underway, but before the contract was approved by the board.
“The Board has pushed the administration to fill vacancies by any means necessary,” McAdams said. “The mayor asked me to find a solution. We opened the contract to negotiate a more competitive rate of pay for firefighters and the only other thing we could do was create a cadet program and make ourselves competitive.
As for the issue of funds not being properly allocated to the program, McAdams said that, like other departments, it has a contract services budget that would cover training costs. Mayor James Fouts confirmed he signed an emergency ordinance in October authorizing the contract with Dorsey Emergency Medical Academy for basic EMT training for 30 cadets.
Watts argues that there needs to be a specific line item for cadet training and that it does not fall under all contracted services.
He also takes issue with the fact that basic EMT training is conducted at the Dorsey campus in Madison Heights instead of Macomb Community College where cadets took their firefighter certification courses. Firefighters require four different certifications: Basic EMT; firefighter one; firefighter two; and EMT paramedic.
“We went to Macomb Community College and asked if they could run an academy-style EMT training that would meet five days a week for a total of 40 hours and they couldn’t,” McAdams said. “We bought it from Schoolcraft College and Oakland Community College and were directed to Dorsey. They had the flexibility to do what we needed and start the course in October.
There were time constraints outlined in the union contract that McAdams says made it necessary to start cadet training before January. EMT training began on October 30 and lasted 10 weeks. The fire academy certification training took an additional 10 weeks and was completed by the cadets on April 2. Some of the cadets have already passed their certification exam; the rest are expected to take theirs on April 30.
By May 11, cadets will be certified for hire and expected to complete the final phase of certification – EMT paramedic training – while on the job. Training sessions will meet once a week plus one Saturday per month for 10 months. According to the union contract, cadets must complete the training within 18 months of their date of hire.
“If I can’t get them into a class in June and have to wait until September, that would be a violation of the firefighters’ union contract,” McAdams said. “I am concerned that as the supplier, MCC and Dorsey have provided a service and have not been paid. This could prevent cadets from starting EMT paramedic training on time and I am also concerned that other schools will not want to do business with us because they are afraid of not being paid.
Watts also believes fully certified and experienced firefighters from other cities who have applied to work in Warren are being overlooked in favor of cadets who won’t be fully trained until 2023. McAdams disagrees and said candidates experienced had been hired and was working to resolve staffing issues in multiple ways.
“There’s a narrative that we somehow ignore fully certified applicants and that’s not the case,” McAdams said. “We had a list of these candidates in place and part of the agreement with the union was that we would exhaust this list before seeking to hire cadets. We’re attacking this from every angle to make sure we fix this problem.
Watts agrees he can’t go back in time and undo the cadets’ training. At this point, he says the administration should come before the council and ask for retroactive appropriation and submit a detailed plan showing exactly how much money was spent.
“I think there are issues with this program as it’s set up and I have a lot of questions,” Watts said. “I want Skip, the Mayor and (City Comptroller) Richard Fox in front of council to answer questions.”
Although city council members who voted not to pay for cadet training are less than enthusiastic about the program, it has sparked interest from other communities. Councilors Eddie Kabacinski, Anglea Rogensues and Ron Papandrea voted against withholding payment.
“I answered calls from Dearborn and many towns in Macomb and Oakland counties,” McAdams said. “They want to know how our cadet program works and what its success rate is. I can tell you that our success rate is going to be very high.
Dorsey College vice president of marketing John O’Sullivan said the college was gathering information about Warren’s non-payment of the bill and was unsure of the next steps for the college. Macomb Community College did not immediately respond to inquiries about paying for fire cadet training.
IAFF Local 1383 President Joe Scher of Warren Professional Firefighters did not respond to calls from the Macomb Daily seeking comment on the story.