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Unions at odds over police, fire merger

As the vote grows closer, relations between the two departments are strained

BAY CITY, Mich. — Mich. city officials will be voting next month whether or not to merge fire and police departments. If approved, police will be cross-trained to fight fires.

Officials say the merger can save the city $2 million per year and would reduce the fire department staff from 43 to 15 to 25 over 18 months. The police department would remain at its current staff level, according to Mlive. The city police chief and interim fire chief both endorse the plan, while members of the IAFF oppose it.

President of the Bay City firefighters union Kurt Wagner, says the plan is a political play to raid the department's budgets and increase police union membership.

The police union's business agent, Dan Kuhn said that the "IAFF is martyring their guys over this issue. It's probably going to lead to the elimination of more firefighters in the state."

Kuhn says that the merger is a necessary "evolution" because of decreasing budgets.

Advocates of the plan say not only will money be saved, but that it makes sense because 86% of emergency calls are directed at police.

Mlive reports that those against it say officials are more concerned about money and are favoring police officers. Decreasing trained firefighters, some said, will put the public at risk.

For now, there is animosity brewing between the two departments as they try to work together before the vote takes place, both still advocating and decrying the plan.

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