BARODA — Preliminary talks are underway between Baroda, Bridgman, and Lake Township officials on the idea of consolidating their fire departments.
Baroda Township Trustee David Wolf at Monday’s Township Board meeting said the initial meetings have been “informational. So far we don’t have much information. The next step will be another meeting. There is no meeting scheduled yet.”
“It’s a big deal to combine three departments into one,” Baroda Township Supervisor Jim Brow said. “... Sometimes change is good.”
Wolf said the three municipalities are exploring the concept and nothing is decided.
“We don’t know how (a combined department would) be organized yet,” Wolf said after the meeting. “It’s far too early to answer those kinds of questions.”
Wolf in a memo to the board said the talks started after the defeat of Baroda Township’s request for a millage levy to fund a new fire station. Officials from all three municipalities met twice to talk about the idea, he said.
A meeting on April 8, led by Bridgman Public Schools Superintendent Shane Peters, was held at Bridgman High School, according to Wolf. Members of all three fire departments were invited, and were asked to fill out surveys, he added.
Of all the 50-55 members who were given surveys, 29 returned them, Wolf said. Twenty-two members thought a merger was a good idea or at least worth talking about, two were undecided, and five were against it, he stated.
“The devil is always in the details, and that’s where this discussion is going to be,” Wolf told the board.
Brow after the meeting said he knows “quite a few people of Baroda are against it.”
However, Brow, who said he has 25 years of firefighting experience, said the idea is certainly worth thinking about.
“The more experienced firefighters you have available, the better off you are,” Brow said. “We have like 22 guys on Baroda’s department. Sometimes half those guys are sick, or off deer hunting or out of town.” With a merger, “you’ve got a bigger base to draw from,” he continued.
Wolf emphasized that nothing has been decided.
“To date, no decisions have been made regarding any type of merger,” Wolf said in his memo.